Cells of the nervous system, called nerve cells or neurons, are specialized to carry messages through an electrochemical process.
The nervous system is the part of an animal's body that coordinates the voluntary and involuntary actions of the animal and transmits signals between different parts of its body. Nervous tissue first arose in wormlike organisms about 550 to 600 million years ago. In most types of animals it consists of two main parts, the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS contains the brain and spinal cord. The PNS consists mainly of nerves, which are long fibers that connect the CNS to every other part of the body. The PNS includes motor neurons, mediating voluntary movement, the autonomic nervous system, comprising the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system and regulating involuntary functions, and the enteric nervous system, a semi-independent part of the nervous system whose function is to control the gastrointestinal system.
At the cellular level, the nervous system is defined by the presence of a special type of cell, called the neuron, also known as a "nerve cell". Neurons have special structures that allow them to send signals rapidly and precisely to other cells. They send these signals in the form of electrochemical waves traveling along thin fibers called axons, which cause chemicals called neurotransmitters to be released at junctions called synapses. A cell that receives a synaptic signal from a neuron may be excited, inhibited, or otherwise modulated. The connections between neurons form neural circuits that generate an organism's perception of the world and determine its behavior. Along with neurons, the nervous system contains other specialized cells called glial cells (or simply glia), which provide structural and metabolic support.
Nervous tissue is the main component of the nervous system – the brain, spinal cord, and branching peripheral nerves – which regulates and controls bodily functions. It is composed of neurons, which transmit impulses, and neuroglia cells, more commonly called glia,(from the Greek, meaning glue) which assist the propagation of the nerve impulse as well as providing nutrients to the neuron.
Nervous tissue is made up of different types of nerve cells, all of which have an axon, the long stem like part of the cell that sends action potential signals to the next cell.
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Neuroendocrine cells are cells that receive neuronal input (neurotransmitters released by nerve cells or neurosecretory cells) and, as a consequence of this input, release message molecules (hormones) to the blood. In this way they bring about an integration between the nervous system and the endocrine system, a process known as neuroendocrine integration. An example of a neuroendocrine cell is a cell of the adrenal medulla (innermost part of the adrenal gland) which releases adrenaline to the blood. The adrenal medullary cells are controlled by the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. These cells are modified postganglionic neurons. Autonomic nerve fibers lead directly to them from the central nervous system. The adrenal medullary hormones are kept in vesicles much in the same way neurotransmitters are kept in neuronal vesicles. Hormonal effects can last up to ten times longer than those of neurotransmitters. Sympathetic nerve fiber impulses stimulate the release of adrenal medullary hormones. In this way the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system and the medullary secretions function together.
The major center of neuroendocrine integration in the body is found in the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. Here hypothalamic neurosecretory cells release factors to the blood. Some of these factors (releasing hormones), released at the hypothalamic median eminence, control the secretion of pituitary hormones, while others (the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin) are released directly into the blood.