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In the insect nervous system, the brain is anatomically divided into the protocerebrum, deutocerebrum, and tritocerebrum.

The vertebrate nervous system can also be divided into areas called grey matter ("gray matter" in American spelling) and white matter.The sensory information from these organs is processed by the brain.In insects, many neurons have cell bodies that are positioned at the edge of the brain and are electrically passive—the cell bodies serve only to provide metabolic support and do not participate in signalling.Both autonomic and enteric nervous systems function involuntarily.Nerves that exit from the cranium are called cranial nerves while those exiting from the spinal cord are called spinal nerves.The neurons that give rise to nerves do not lie entirely within the nerves themselves—their cell bodies reside within the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral ganglia Glial cells (named from the Greek for "glue") are non-neuronal cells that provide support and nutrition, maintain homeostasis, form myelin, and participate in signal transmission in the nervous system.

In the human brain, it is estimated that the total number of glia roughly equals the number of neurons, although the proportions vary in different brain areas.

The nervous system derives its name from nerves, which are cylindrical bundles of fibers (the axons of neurons), that emanate from the brain and spinal cord, and branch repeatedly to innervate every part of the body.

Nerves are large enough to have been recognized by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, but their internal structure was not understood until it became possible to examine them using a microscope.

Among the most important functions of glial cells are to support neurons and hold them in place; to supply nutrients to neurons; to insulate neurons electrically; to destroy pathogens and remove dead neurons; and to provide guidance cues directing the axons of neurons to their targets.

A very important type of glial cell (oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system, and Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system) generates layers of a fatty substance called myelin that wraps around axons and provides electrical insulation which allows them to transmit action potentials much more rapidly and efficiently.

"It is difficult to believe that until approximately year 1900 it was not known that neurons are the basic units of the brain (Santiago Ram? Equally surprising is the fact that the concept of chemical transmission in the brain was not known until around 1930 (Henry Hallett Dale) and (Otto Loewi).