This post is the second in a series that will highlight contributions from various scientific disciplines that have furthered our understanding of how the brain and nervous system affect how we think and behave. Click here for the previous installment about ion channels, and look out for more posts in the future!
One of the first things you’ll learn about if you start studying the brain is that it is made of cells called neurons. While neuroscientists have a decent understanding about how neurons work, it turns out that at least half of the brain is actually made of non-neuronal cells called glia*. Glia, named after the Greek word for ‘glue,’ were initially thought to be a type of connective tissue in the nervous system, acting just as scaffolding, while the neurons did all of the communicating. In the last couple of decades, the growing field of neuroimmunology has highlighted the importance of a certain kind of glia: microglia, the brain’s resident immune cells.