Why do neurons become unipolar
Nerve cell, unipolar
The term "unipolar nerve cell" is not clearly defined in the specialist literature. The spectrum lexicon of neurosciences, for example, writes that unipolar nerve cells consist only of the soma and a single long primary process, which then takes on the function of an axon. In some unipolar nerve cells, however, this long process is branched, the secondary branches then have a similar function to dendrites and can therefore absorb information.
Other sources refer to such branched unipolar nerve cells as pseudounipolar.
According to Bear, a nerve cell is unipolar when the soma has a single neurite . Baer understands "neurite" to be a generic term for axons and dendrites.
A unipolar neuron according to Bear, redrawn by U. Helmich.
Bear does not address the question of what functions the two branches of the "neurite" have.
The following representation of a unipolar nerve cell can be found in Wikipedia:
A unipolar neuron from Wikipedia, redrawn by U. Helmich.
In this picture all branches look the same; no distinction is made between an axon and the dendrites; there are also no synaptic endbones visible.
With further research, the following representation of a "unipolar neuron" can also be found on the Internet :
Another representation of a unipolar neuron, redrawn by U. Helmich.
Unfortunately, the original source of this drawing was not given in the reference, which I think is very unscientific. Here you can see a neuron in which actually only a single process (neurite) emerges from the soma. However, this extension branches in two places. The first branch then forms the dendrites, the second branch forms the axon collaterals; recognizable by the synaptic end knobs.
In other references it is pointed out that the cones and rods of the vertebrate retina are unipolar nerve cells.
Conclusion: Nobody really knows what a unipolar neuron actually is. Perhaps one should forget these technical terms, some of which come from the early days of neurobiology (late 19th century).
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