Nervous tissue
Example of nervous tissue
Cells of nervous tissue
Anatomical terminology

Nervous tissue, also called neural tissue, is the main tissue component of the nervous system. The nervous system regulates and controls body functions and activity. It consists of two parts: the central nervous system (CNS) comprising the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system (PNS) comprising the branching peripheral nerves. It is composed of neurons, also known as nerve cells, which receive and transmit impulses, and neuroglia, also known as glial cells or glia, which assist the propagation of the nerve impulse as well as provide nutrients to the neurons.[1]

Nervous tissue is made up of different types of neurons, all of which have an axon. An axon is the long stem-like part of the cell that sends action potentials to the next cell. Bundles of axons make up the nerves in the PNS and tracts in the CNS.

Functions of the nervous system are sensory input, integration, control of muscles and glands, homeostasis, and mental activity.


See also: Brain cell

Nervous tissue is composed of neurons, also called nerve cells, and neuroglial cells. Four types of neuroglia found in the CNS are astrocytes, microglial cells, ependymal cells, and oligodendrocytes. Two types of neuroglia found in the PNS are satellite glial cells and Schwann cells. In the central nervous system (CNS), the tissue types found are grey matter and white matter. The tissue is categorized by its neuronal and neuroglial components.[2]


Neurons are cells with specialized features that allow them to receive and facilitate nerve impulses, or action potentials, across their membrane to the next neuron.[3] They possess a large cell body (soma), with cell projections called dendrites and an axon. Dendrites are thin, branching projections that receive electrochemical signaling (neurotransmitters) to create a change in voltage in the cell. Axons are long projections that carry the action potential away from the cell body toward the next neuron. The bulb-like end of the axon, called the axon terminal, is separated from the dendrite of the following neuron by a small gap called a synaptic cleft. When the action potential travels to the axon terminal, neurotransmitters are released across the synapse and bind to the post-synaptic receptors, continuing the nerve impulse.[4]

Neurons are classified both functionally and structurally.

Functional classification:[5]

Structural classification:[5]

Neuroglia encompasses the non-neural cells in nervous tissue that provide various crucial supportive functions for neurons. They are smaller than neurons, and vary in structure according to their function.[4]

Neuroglial cells are classified as follows:[6]

Classification of tissue

In the central nervous system:[11]

In the peripheral nervous system:[12]

The three layers of connective tissue surrounding each nerve are:[11]


Myelinated axons (right) conduct impulses faster than unmyelinated axons.

The function of nervous tissue is to form the communication network of the nervous system by conducting electric signals across tissue.[13] In the CNS, grey matter, which contains the synapses, is important for information processing. White matter, containing myelinated axons, connects and facilitates nerve impulse between grey matter areas in the CNS.[14] In the PNS, the ganglion tissue, containing the cell bodies and dendrites, contain relay points for nerve tissue impulses. The nerve tissue, containing myelinated axons bundles, carry action potential nerve impulses.[11]

Clinical significance


Neoplasms (tumours) in nervous tissue include:

Oligoastrocytoma, Choroid plexus papilloma, Ependymoma, Astrocytoma (Pilocytic astrocytoma, Glioblastoma multiforme), Dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumour, Oligodendroglioma, Medulloblastoma, Primitive neuroectodermal tumor
Ganglioneuroma, Neuroblastoma, Atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor, Retinoblastoma, Esthesioneuroblastoma
Neurofibroma (Neurofibrosarcoma, Neurofibromatosis), Schwannoma, Neurinoma, Acoustic neuroma, Neuroma


  1. ^ "Nervous Tissue | SEER Training". Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  2. ^ "Peripheral Nervous System". Histology and Virtual Microscopy Learning Resource. University of Michigan Medical School. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  3. ^ Byrne, John; Roberts, James (2004). From Molecules to Networks. California: Academic Press. p. 1.
  4. ^ a b Swenson, Rand. "Review of Clinical and Functional Neuroscience". Dartmouth Medical School. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d Waymire, Jack. "Organization of Cell Types". Neuroscience Online. The University of Texas Medical School. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  6. ^ a b Verkhratsky, Alexi; Butt, Arthur (2013). Glial Physiology and Pathaphysiology (PDF) (First ed.). Chinchester, UK: John Wiley & Sons. p. 76. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  7. ^ Brodal, Per (March 1, 2010). The Central Nervous System: Structure and Function (Fourth ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 19. ISBN 9780199701049. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  8. ^ Sofroniew, Michael; Vinters, Harry (2009). "Astrocytes: biology and pathology". Acta Neuropathol. 119 (1): 7–35. doi:10.1007/s00401-009-0619-8. PMC 2799634. PMID 20012068.
  9. ^ M, Hanani (2010). "Satellite glial cells in sympathetic and parasympathetic ganglia: in search of function". Brain Research Reviews. 64 (2): 304–27. doi:10.1016/j.brainresrev.2010.04.009. PMID 20441777. S2CID 11833205.
  10. ^ Gershon, Michael; Rothman, Taube (1991). "Enteric Glia". Glia. 4 (2): 195–204. doi:10.1002/glia.440040211. PMID 1827778. S2CID 25988353.
  11. ^ a b c "Neurons and Support Cells". SIU Med. Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
  12. ^ Hof, Patrick R.; Kidd, Grahame; Defelipe, Javier; De Vellis, Jean; Gama Sosa, Miguel A.; Elder, Gregory A.; Trapp, Bruce D. (2013). Cellular Components of Nervous Tissue (PDF). Randolph-Macon College. pp. 41–59. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-385870-2.00003-2. ISBN 9780123858702. S2CID 14442865. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 August 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2015. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  13. ^ "Nervous Tissue". Sidwell School. Archived from the original on 12 June 2016. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  14. ^ Robertson, Sally (November 2010). "What is Grey Matter". News Medical. AZo Network. Retrieved 30 January 2015.