Images of neurons show ~5-20 synapses, but descriptions say each neuron has ~10,000 or more. Which is … by Paul King

Answer by Paul King:

Cartoon drawings of neurons may show only 5 – 20 synapses in order to make the cartoon easier to understand, but images of real neurons in the cerebral cortex show thousands of synapses, up to 10,000.

A cartoon neuron:

A real neuron from the visual cortex:

The tiny black dots are synapses. The neuron is actually 3-dimensional, so in this 2-dimensional slice, you are seeing less than 10% of the neuron.

More than 99% of the neurons in this image are transparent, as only one neuron is stained black, which is why you don’t see the hundreds of neurons on the transmitting side of these synapses.

Images of neurons show ~5-20 synapses, but descriptions say each neuron has ~10,000 or more. Which is correct?

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