Brain cells are different than other types of body cells in a number of different ways. Perhaps most importantly, their function is different than that of most cells. While most body cells simply carry fuel, such as nutrients and oxygen or help fight off disease or aid in clotting, brain cells have a different function altogether. Understanding these functions not only helps humans understand how the brain works, but also how to fix brain problems.
One of the most common misconceptions put forth throughout most of the 20th century was that brain cells cannot regenerate. This was a stark difference when compared to other types of cells in the body, which nearly continually regenerate. It is also a difference that is very much incorrect, however. In 1998, researchers in Sweden and the Salk Institute in California proved the cells could regrow, although the information stored in the previous cells will likely be gone forever. Also, the way the new cells connect with others may not be exactly the same. This is why rehabilitation after brain injuries is so important.
Despite this breakthrough, brain cells remain very distinct from other body parts in many ways. Neurons make up many of the cells specific to the brain. They produce electrical impulses to transfer information.
Without these cells, it would be impossible for any animal with a brain to transmit information between cells. Thus, information received could never be stored. Chances are, it would never even register with the animal. As their name would suggest, they are the workhorse of the nervous system. There are approximately 40 billion neurons in the brain, but they do not make up the majority of brain cells.
Another type of cell in the brain is the glial cell, of which there are three different types, depending on the function. These cells often work in support of the neurons. Some are meant to protect the neurons by putting a buffer around them. Others are used for nutritional support and others work with the immune system. These make up the majority of brain cells.
Brain research that is concerned with the functioning of a person after an injury is likely specifically focused on neural paths. Without good facilitation between neurons, there is no chance for a full recovery. Scientists and medical doctors, such as a neurologist, do not depend on an artificial reconnection of neurons. Rather, the brain must naturally form new connections. In cases where that happens, recovery can be promising.