The Cognitive Neuroscience Journal

All submissions of the EM system will be redirected to Online Manuscript Submission System. Authors are requested to submit articles directly to Online Manuscript Submission System of respective journal.
Reach Us +1 (202) 780-3397

Mini Review - The Cognitive Neuroscience Journal (2024) Volume 7, Issue 2

Unveiling the multifaceted world of glial cells

Kathrin Seibert *

Department of Public Health and Nursing Research, University of Bremen, Germany

*Corresponding Author:
Kathrin Seibert
Department of Public Health and Nursing Research
University of Bremen

Received: 25-Mar-2024, Manuscript No. aacnj-24-136332; Editor assigned: 28-Mar-2024, PreQC No. aacnj-24-136332(PQ); Reviewed: 11-Apr-2024, QC No. aacnj-24-136332; Revised: 16-Apr-2024, Manuscript No. aacnj-24-136332(R); Published: 23-Apr-2024, DOI:10.35841/aacnj-7.2.196.

Citation: Seibert K. Unveiling the multifaceted world of glial cells. J Cogn Neurosci. 2024;7(2):196.

Visit for more related articles at The Cognitive Neuroscience Journal


In the intricate landscape of the nervous system, neurons often take the spotlight, captivating researchers and enthusiasts alike with their electric signals and synaptic connections. However, amidst this neuronal brilliance, a silent army of cells quietly orchestrates the symphony of neural function and support. These unsung heroes are glial cells, once considered mere "glue" by early neuroscientists but now recognized as essential players in the maintenance, modulation, and protection of the nervous system. In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of glial cells, exploring their diverse functions and contributions to brain health and function [1]

The term "glia" originates from the Greek word for "glue," reflecting the historical perception of these cells as mere structural support for neurons. However, research over the past few decades has unveiled the remarkable diversity and complexity of glial cells. There are three primary types of glial cells in the central nervous system i.e., astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia, each with distinct roles and functions. [2].

Astrocytes, often dubbed the "stars" of the nervous system due to their star-like appearance under the microscope, are the most abundant glial cells in the CNS. Once considered passive scaffolding, astrocytes are now recognized as dynamic regulators of neuronal function and homeostasis [3].

Nutrient supply are astrocytes maintain the extracellular environment by regulating ion and neurotransmitter concentrations, providing essential nutrients to neurons, and removing metabolic waste products. Synaptic function of these cells actively modulates synaptic transmission and plasticity by regulating neurotransmitter levels, recycling neurotransmitters, and shaping synaptic activity. Astrocytes play crucial roles in defending the brain against injury and disease, forming scar tissue to seal off damaged areas and releasing neurotrophic factors to support neuronal survival and repair [4].

Oligodendrocytes are specialized glial cells responsible for producing myelin, a fatty substance that insulates axons and facilitates rapid conduction of nerve impulses. Each oligodendrocyte can myelinate multiple axonal segments, forming myelin sheaths that enhance signal transmission efficiency. Myelin enables salutatory conduction, where nerve impulses "jump" between nodes of Ranvier, significantly increasing the speed of signal propagation along axons. Dysfunction of oligodendrocytes or demyelination processes underlies several neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis [5].

Microglia often described as the immune cells of the CNS, constitute the resident macrophages that surveil the brain environment for signs of injury, infection, or abnormality. Unlike other glial cells, microglia originates from hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow and migrates to the brain during embryonic development. Once in the CNS, microglia exhibit a highly dynamic and plastic phenotype, continuously surveying their surroundings and responding rapidly to any disturbances. Microglia play pivotal roles in the brain's immune defence, detecting and eliminating pathogens, clearing cellular debris, and mediating inflammatory responses [6].

In addition to their immune functions, microglia actively participate in synaptic remodelling and plasticity, pruning excess synapses during development and shaping neuronal circuits in response to experience and injury. Microglia releases various neurotrophic factors and cytokines that promote neuronal survival, repair damaged tissue, and support neurogenesis [7].

While each type of glial cell performs distinct functions, their interactions and crosstalk are crucial for maintaining proper neural function and homeostasis. Astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia communicate with each other and with neurons through complex signalling pathways, forming intricate networks known as the "gliovascular unit." This dynamic interplay enables glial cells to respond rapidly to changes in neuronal activity, metabolic demands, and pathological insults, contributing to the brain's adaptability and resilience [8].

The pivotal roles of glial cells in brain function and health have profound implications for understanding and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. Dysregulation of glial function has been implicated in a wide range of conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease), neuropsychiatric disorders (schizophrenia, depression), and neurodevelopmental disorders (autism spectrum disorders). Targeting glial cells and their signalling pathways holds promise for developing novel therapeutic interventions aimed at restoring brain homeostasis and ameliorating disease-related pathology [9].

In the intricate tapestry of the nervous system, glial cells emerge as indispensable players, orchestrating a symphony of support, modulation, and protection. Once relegated to the side-lines, these unsung heroes now take center stage, captivating researchers with their diversity, complexity, and multifaceted functions. As our understanding of glial biology continues to deepen, so too will our appreciation of their profound contributions to brain health and function, paving the way for novel therapeutic strategies and interventions in the realm of neuroscience and beyond [10].


  1.  Agulhon C, Petravicz J, McMullen AB, et al.What is the role of astrocyte calcium in neurophysiology?. Neuron. 2008;59(6):932-46.
  2. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  3. Agulhon C, Fiacco TA, McCarthy KD. Hippocampal short-and long-term plasticity are not modulated by astrocyte Ca2+ signaling. Science. 2010;327(5970):1250-4.
  4. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  5. Andriezen WL. The neuroglia elements in the human brain. Br Med J. 1893;2(1700):227.
  6. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  7. Anlauf E, Derouiche A. Astrocytic exocytosis vesicles and glutamate: A high?resolution immunofluorescence study. Glia. 2005;49(1):96-106.
  8. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  9. Araque A, Parpura V, Sanzgiri RP, et al.Glutamate?dependent astrocyte modulation of synaptic transmission between cultured hippocampal neurons. Eur J Neurosci. 1998;10(6):2129-42.
  10. Indexed at, Cross Ref

  11. Araque A, Parpura V, Sanzgiri RP, et al. Tripartite synapses: glia, the unacknowledged partner. Trends Neurosci. 1999;22(5):208-15.
  12. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  13. Attwell D, Laughlin SB. An energy budget for signaling in the grey matter of the brain. Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2001;21(10):1133-45.
  14. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  15. Bak LK, Schousboe A, Sonnewald U, et al. Glucose is necessary to maintain neurotransmitter homeostasis during synaptic activity in cultured glutamatergic neurons. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2006;26(10):1285-97.
  16. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

  17. Bal?Price A, Moneer Z, Brown GC. Nitric oxide induces rapid, calcium?dependent release of vesicular glutamate and ATP from cultured rat astrocytes. Glia. 2002;40(3):312-23.
  18. Indexed at, Cross Ref

  19. Barkho BZ, Song H, Aimone JB, et al.Identification of astrocyte-expressed factors that modulate neural stem/progenitor cell differentiation. Stem Cells Dev. 2006;15(3):407-21.
  20. Indexed at, Google Scholar, Cross Ref

Get the App