The complexity and diversity in nervous systems is dependent on the interconnections between neurons, which rely on a limited number of different signals transmitted within the neurons to other neurons or to muscles and glands. The signals are produced and propagated by chemical ions that produce an electrical charge that moves along the neuron.

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Neurons exist in a number of different shapes and sizes and can be classified by their morphology and function. The anatomist Camillo Golgi grouped neurons into two types; type I with long axons used to move signals over long distances and type II without axons. type I cells can be further divided by where the cell body or soma is located. The basic morphology of type I neurons, represented by spinal motor neurons, consists of a cell body called the soma and a long thin axon which is covered by the myelin sheath. Around the cell body is a branching dendritic tree that receives signals from other neurons. The end of the axon has branching terminals (axon terminal) that release transmitter substances into a gap called the synaptic cleft between the terminals and the dendrites of the next neuron.
The anatomy and the properties of the surface membrane determine the behavior of a neuron. The surface membrane is not uniform over the entire length of a neuron, but is modified in specific areas: some regions secrete transmitter substances while other areas respond to the transmitter. Other areas of the neuron membrane have passive electrical properties that effect capacitance and resistance. Within the neuron membrane there are gated ion channels that vary in type, including fast response sodium channels that are voltage-gated and are used to send rapid signals.
Neurons communicate by chemical and electrical synapses in a process known as synaptic transmission. The fundamental process that triggers synaptic transmission is the action potential, a propagating electrical signal that is generated by exploiting the electrically excitable membrane of the neuron. This is also known as a wave of depolarization.
Fully differentiated neurons are permanently amitotic; however, recent research shows that additional neurons throughout the brain can originate from neural stem cells found in high concentrations in (but throughout the brain) the subventricular zone and subgranular zone through the process of neurogenesis.

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