Neuroscience: A Journey Through the Brain

Main Page   Organization   Development   Neuron   Systems   About the site (Glossary)  References

The Neuron: Basic Unit of Function

Neuron Home    Size    Structure    Action Potentials    Classification

To study the structure of brain cells, scientists have had to overcome several obstacles:

1. Small size: Most cells range from 0.01 to 0.05 mm in diameter
2. Slicing: In order to view cells under a microscope, the ideal thickness of a brain slice is the thickness of the cells themselves. The tissue is not firm enough to make such slices. Early in the 1800's, scientists discovered that formaldehyde could be used to harden (or "fix") the tissue without damaging it, and a device called a microtome was developed to make thin slices.
3. Pigmentation: Freshly prepared brain tissue is uniform in colour, and it was difficult to resolve individual cells. The final breakthrough in this field called Histology was the development of staining procedures that selectively colour some, but not all, part of the neurons. 

Methods of study include:

Created and Maintained by: Melissa Davies
Last Updated: April 10, 2002 08:57 AM