Nerve cells called neurons are made of various structures that help transmit and receive signals. The soma is the cell body and the dendrites are extensions of the cell that connect to other nerve cells. Extensive networks, capable of communicating signals between many areas, can be formed in the brain with dendrite growth. To grow dendrites, proteins are generally needed in the right places, and a way to signal the proteins and to transport them is also required. Dendrites usually grow in response to biological stimuli, and some researchers believe as a result of physical and mental activities as well.
Most nerve cells have an organelle, or structure, called a Golgi apparatus. Proteins and molecules pass through it and are sorted out, before being transported to where the cell can grow dendrites. Other structures called Golgi outposts are sometimes found in long dendrite structures. These organelles can also be oriented in the main cell body toward a long dendrite. Researchers have tracked the path of molecules in the laboratory to prove that they were transported from a particular organelle.
In a neuron, the electrical properties and molecular structure can be unique to the particular type of cell. There are many types of cells in the brain that work together. Each kind of cell requires certain molecules to be in specific places for it to function properly. Golgi organelles can help get the appropriate compounds to the right places, especially when they are positioned in some part of the dendrite.
The growth of dendrites is often adversely affected by diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as by developmental disorders in children. Disorders that affect how proteins are processed in the brain usually affect how the body can grow dendrites. Proteins of the cell membrane, and how they are made and processed, are generally involved as well.
Dendrites generally have the ability to grow and shrink. Diseases and activities such as excessive alcohol consumption can cause dendrites to retract. To trigger the body to grow dendrites, one can participate in a variety of activities, including interacting with people in challenging activities such as racing or playing chess. Learning a new skill generally helps, as well as building puzzles, playing musical instruments, and drawing or painting. Research has shown that the human body can grow dendrites sometimes well into old age, and choosing a variety of activities can have the most benefit for the nervous system.