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Axons vs. Dendrites: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Published on December 8, 2023
Axons are long nerve fibers transmitting impulses away from the neuron's body, while dendrites are shorter, branched structures receiving signals to the neuron.

Key Differences

Axons are elongated fibers of neurons responsible for transmitting nerve impulses away from the neuron cell body. Dendrites, in contrast, are tree-like extensions of the neuron that receive signals from other neurons.
An axon typically has a uniform structure and can extend long distances from the neuron body, facilitating rapid signal transmission. However, dendrites are shorter, highly branched, and designed to maximize the surface area for receiving incoming signals.
The axon's primary function is to conduct electrical impulses, known as action potentials, to other neurons, muscles, or glands. Dendrites function primarily as the receivers of chemical signals from the synapses of other neurons.
In terms of anatomy, axons are often insulated by a myelin sheath, enhancing signal speed and efficiency. While, dendrites lack this myelination, focusing instead on receiving a broad range of synaptic inputs.
Axons end in terminal buttons that release neurotransmitters into synapses. Dendrites contain numerous receptor sites to which these neurotransmitters bind, initiating or inhibiting new action potentials.

Comparison Chart


Transmit impulses away from neuron body
Receive signals from other neurons


Long, often myelinated fibers
Short, branched, without myelination


Can be very long, extending considerable distances
Generally short and highly branched

Role in Signal Transmission

Conduct electrical impulses
Receive chemical signals at synapses

Connection with Other Cells

End in terminal buttons to release neurotransmitters
Contain receptors to bind neurotransmitters

Axons and Dendrites Definitions


Part of the neuron that is often covered with a myelin sheath.
Myelination of axons speeds up nerve impulse transmission.


Short, branched extensions of a neuron that receive signals from other neurons.
Dendrites are crucial for receiving synaptic inputs.


A long, thin fiber that transmits signals away from a neuron's cell body.
The axons in the nervous system resemble electrical wiring.


Exhibit plasticity in response to learning and memory.
Changes in dendrites are associated with memory formation.


Ends in terminal buttons that release neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are released at the end of the axon.


Contain numerous receptor sites for neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters bind to receptors located on the dendrites.


Can be involved in forming nerve tracts in the central nervous system.
Axons bundle together to form neural pathways.


Play a key role in integrating synaptic information.
Dendrites integrate signals from multiple neurons.


Can regenerate under certain conditions in the peripheral nervous system.
Axon regeneration is a key part of nerve repair.


Increase the surface area of a neuron for receiving signals.
The branching of dendrites enhances their signal reception capacity.


The usually long process of a nerve fiber that generally conducts impulses away from the body of the nerve cell.


A mineral crystallizing in another mineral in the form of a branching or treelike mark.


Plural of axon


A rock or mineral bearing such a mark or marks.


A branched protoplasmic extension of a nerve cell that conducts impulses from adjacent cells inward toward the cell body. A single nerve may possess many dendrites. Also called dendron.


Plural of dendrite


What is the function of dendrites?

Dendrites receive and process signals from other neurons.

Are dendrites myelinated?

No, dendrites are not typically myelinated.

What are axons?

Axons are long nerve fibers that transmit impulses away from the neuron's cell body.

What is the role of axon terminals?

Axon terminals release neurotransmitters into synapses to communicate with other cells.

Can axons regenerate?

In the peripheral nervous system, axons can sometimes regenerate.

Do dendrites change in response to learning?

Yes, dendrites exhibit plasticity in response to learning and memory.

How are axons and dendrites different?

Axons transmit signals away from the neuron, while dendrites receive signals.

How do dendrites receive information?

They receive information through receptors that bind to neurotransmitters.

How long can axons be?

Axons can vary in length, with some extending over a meter in the human body.

Do axons have a myelin sheath?

Many axons in the nervous system are myelinated to increase signal transmission speed.

What are terminal buttons on axons?

Terminal buttons are the small swellings at the end of axons that release neurotransmitters.

What's the difference in the number of axons and dendrites in a neuron?

Typically, a neuron has one axon but multiple dendrites.

What factors affect dendritic growth?

Factors include neural activity, hormones, and various molecular signals.

How do neurotransmitters affect dendrites?

Neurotransmitters bind to receptors on dendrites, influencing the neuron's activity.

What is an action potential?

An action potential is an electrical impulse transmitted along an axon.

Do dendrites generate action potentials?

Dendrites mainly receive and process signals, but under certain conditions, they can also generate electrical signals.

Can axons transmit signals to multiple cells?

Yes, axons can branch and transmit signals to multiple target cells.

Are axons only found in the nervous system?

Yes, axons are a part of neurons, which are the fundamental units of the nervous system.

What is synaptic plasticity in dendrites?

It refers to the ability of dendrites to change their strength of connections in response to activity.

Are all axons the same length?

No, axon length varies greatly depending on their location and function.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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