The nerve cell just prior to sleep is still well capable of response to stimuli, although perhaps the threshold-value of the stimulus has become rather high, whereas after entrance upon sleep and continuance of sleep for several hours, and more, when all spur to the dissimilation process has been long withheld, the threshold-value of the sensory stimulus becomes enormously higher than before.
It is this wide range of dynamic peculiarities above the common range of known physical and chemical molecules which excites our wonder; and a reflection of these peculiar properties is seen in their affinities for this or that toxic or constructive agent, whereby the peculiarity, for example, of a particular kind of nerve cell may be altered, antagonized, reinforced or converted.
The work of Camillo Golgi (Pavia, 1885 and onwards) on the minute structure of the nervous system has led to great alteration of doctrine in neural physi nerve cells, that is to say, the fine nerve fibres - since all nerve fibres are nerve cell branches, and all nerve cell branches are nerve fibres - which form a close felt-work in the nervous centres, there combined into a network actually continuous throughout.
Each neuron or nerve cell is a morphologically distinct and discrete unit connected functionally but not structurally with its neighbours, and leading its own life independently of the destiny of its neighbours.
It has been urged that the neurons retract during sleep, and that thus at the synapses the gap between nerve cell and nerve cell becomes wider, or that the supporting cells expand between the nerve cells and tend to isolate the latter one from the other.
The alkaloid curarin causes motor paralysis by attacking in a selective way this junction of motor nerve cell and striped muscular fibre.
On the other hand, in some neurons, after severance of the axon from the rest of the cell (spinal motor cell), the whole nerve cell as well as the severed axon degenerates, and may eventually die and be removed.
But when neurons are linked together it is found that nerve impulses will only pass from neuron A to neuron B, and not from neuron B to neuron A; that is, the transmission of the excited state or nervous impulse, although possible in each neuron both up and down its own cell branches, is possible from one nerve cell to another in one direction only.