Nerve cell fibers that receive signals from other cells.
Dendrites are one of two types of short, threadlike fibers that extend from the cell body of a nerve cell, or neuron. The other type are called axons. Dendrites receive electrochemical signals, which are known as postsynaptic potentials, from the axons of other neurons, and the information contained in these signals is fired across a synaptic gap or cleft about 0.02 microns or about 8 millionths of an inch wide and transmitted toward the cell body, with the signals fading as they approach their destination. A single neuron can have many dendrites, each composed of numerous branches; together, they comprise the greater part of the neuron's receptive surface.
The number of axons and dendrites increases dramatically during infancy and childhood—possibly to facilitate the rapid development experienced during this period—and decrease in early adolescence. A child of six or seven has more dendrites than an adult.
See also Synapse