Intro | Axon | Axon Hillock | Dendrites | Myelin Sheath | Nodes of Ranvier | Soma | Synapse | Terminal Buttons

Part 1: Image-Mapped Tutorial
Part 2: Matching Self-Test
Part 3: Multiple-Choice Self-Test

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The Dendrites (Greek, dendr /o: tree) of a neuron are its many short, branching fibers extending from the cell body or soma. These fibers increase the surface area available for receiving incoming information.

Dendrites are generally very thin appendages that get narrower as they extend further away from the soma. Dendritic spines are short outgrowths that further increase the receptive surface area of a neuron. The surface of dendrites is covered with junctions that are configured for the reception of incoming information.

The dendritic branching of a neuron is changeable in the mature nervous system, either growing or retracting in response to numerous factors. This plastic behavior is more common in larger animals. An enriched environment (and perhaps learning) is associated with the growth of dendrites. Alcohol has an adverse effect on dendritic growth, and senility is associated with dendrite shortening and a reduction in the number of branches in the elderly.