Skip to main content
Medicine LibreTexts

10.4A: Clusters of Neuronal Cell Bodies

  • Page ID
    7583
  • [ "article:topic" ]

    Clusters of cell bodies in the central nervous system are called nuclei, while the cell bodies lining the nerves in the peripheral nervous system are called ganglia.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Identify the types of clusters of neuronal cell bodies

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • A cluster of neurons is called a nucleus if found in the central nervous system; it is called a ganglion if found in the peripheral nervous system (PNS).
    • Ganglia are the intermediate structures between the central and peripheral nervous systems.
    • Satellite glial cells (SGC) line the exterior surface of neurons in the PNS and surround neuron cell bodies within ganglia.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • ganglion: A cluster of interconnecting nerve cells outside the brain.
    • nucleus: A cluster of neuronal bodies where synapsing occurs.

    In neuroanatomy, a nucleus is a brain structure consisting of a relatively compact cluster of neurons. It is one of the two most common forms of nerve cell organization along with layered structures such as the cerebral cortex or cerebellar cortex. In anatomical sections, a nucleus shows up as a region of gray matter often bordered by white matter. The vertebrate brain contains hundreds of distinguishable nuclei varying widely in shape and size. A nucleus may itself have a complex internal structure, with multiple types of neurons arranged in clumps (subnuclei) or layers.

    In addition, the term nucleus can refer to a distinct group of neurons that spread over an extended area. For example, the reticular nucleus of the thalamus is a thin layer of inhibitory neurons that surround the thalamus.

    In the peripheral nervous system, a cluster of neurons is called a ganglion. One exception is the basal ganglia, located not in the periphery but rather in the forebrain. Ganglia are composed mainly of neuron cell bodies (somata) and dendritic structures. They are the intermediary connections between the peripheral and central nervous systems.

    This diagram depicts the function of the nervous system, with terms including midbrain, medulla, great splanchnic, small splanchnic, superior mesenteric ganglia, inferior mesenteric ganglia, pelvic nerve, eye, ciliary, lacrinal gland, sphenopalatine, otic, celiac, mucous membranes, nose, palate, submaxillary gland, sublingual gland, parotid gland, heart, larynx, trachea, bronchi, esophagus, stomach, abdominal blood vessels, liver and ducts, pancreas, adrenal, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, kidney, bladder, sexual organs, external genitalia.

     

    Innervation of the Autonomic Nervous System: Satellite glial cells are expressed throughout the sympathetic and parasympathetic ganglia in their respective nervous system divisions.

    Satellite glial cells line the exterior surface of neurons in the PNS. Satellite glial cells (SGCs) also surround neuron cell bodies within ganglia. They are of a similar embryological origin to Schwann cells of the PNS, as both are derived from the neural crest of the embryo during development. SGCs have a variety of roles, including control over the microenvironment of sympathetic ganglia. They are thought to have a similar role to astrocytes in the central nervous system (CNS). They supply nutrients to the surrounding neurons and also have some structural function. Satellite cells also act as protective, cushioning cells. Additionally, they express a variety of receptors that allow for a range of interactions with neuroactive chemicals.