Artificial neural networks born after McCulloc and Pitts introduced a set of simplified neurons in 1943. These neurons were represented as models of biological networks into conceptual components for circuits that could perform computational tasks. The basic model of the artificial neuron is founded upon the functionality of the biological neuron. By definition, “Neurons are basic signaling units of the nervous system of a living being in which each neuron is a discrete cell whose several processes are from its cell body”
The biological neuron has four main regions to its structure. The cell body, or soma, has two offshoots from it. The dendrites and the axon end in pre-synaptic terminals. The cell body is the heart of the cell. It contains the nucleolus and maintains protein synthesis. A neuron has many dendrites, which look like a tree structure, receives signals from other neurons.
A single neuron usually has one axon, which expands off from a part of the cell body. This I called the axon hillock. The axon main purpose is to conduct electrical signals generated at the axon hillock down its length. These signals are called action potentials.
The other end of the axon may split into several branches, which end in a pre-synaptic terminal. The electrical signals (action potential) that the neurons use to convey the information of the brain are all identical. The brain can determine which type of information is being received based on the path of the signal.
The brain analyzes all patterns of signals sent, and from that information it interprets the type of information received. The myelin is a fatty issue that insulates the axon. The non-insulated parts of the axon area are called Nodes of Ranvier. At these nodes, the signal traveling down the axon is regenerated. This ensures that the signal travel down the axon to be fast and constant.
The synapse is the area of contact between two neurons. They do not physically touch because they are separated by a cleft. The electric signals are sent through chemical interaction. The neuron sending the signal is called pre-synaptic cell and the neuron receiving the electrical signal is called postsynaptic cell.
The electrical signals are generated by the membrane potential which is based on differences in concentration of sodium and potassium ions and outside the cell membrane.
Biological neurons can be classified by their function or by the quantity of processes they carry out. When they are classified by processes, they fall into three categories: Unipolar neurons, bipolar neurons and multipolar neurons.
Unipolar neurons have a single process. Their dendrites and axon are located on the same stem. These neurons are found in invertebrates.
Bipolar neurons have two processes. Their dendrites and axon have two separated processes too.
Multipolar neurons: These are commonly found in mammals. Some examples of these neurons are spinal motor neurons, pyramidal cells and purkinje cells.
When biological neurons are classified by function they fall into three categories. The first group is sensory neurons. These neurons provide all information for perception and motor coordination. The second group provides information to muscles, and glands. There are called motor neurons. The last group, the interneuronal, contains all other neurons and has two subclasses. One group called relay or protection interneurons. They are usually found in the brain and connect different parts of it. The other group called local interneurons are only used in local circuits.