Nerve cells relay messages, or transfer
information to each other, by producing an
electrochemical signal called the "action
potential" . This signal travels down a part
of the nerve cell called the axon, which is
like a wire that carries the signal to other nerve
cells. On average a nerve cell sends a signal
at about 50 meters per second, which is
over 100 miles an hour!
Depending on a number of factors, signals can be
sent even faster. One important factor is how
myelinated the axon is .
Myelin is a fatty substance that acts as an
electrical insulator, increasing the speed at
which the signal is sent. A highly myelinated
nerve cell can send a signal at up to 120 meters
per second, or nearly 270 miles per hour, quite a
bit faster than an airplane taking off! These
quick speeds are the basis for everything the
brain does, from making sense of what your eyes
see to deciding what you're going to have for
Thanks for the great question,
The nervous system can relay messages about at
a speed of 150 meters/second. For context, a
car is only moving at 26.8 meters per second when
driving 60 miles per hour. When you shoot a
bullet, it is close to 350 meters per second. An
interesting thought then is which sense is our
The human nervous system can send signals that
travel faster than 200 miles per hour, which
is more than 328 feet per second! If our nervous
system were slower, we would not be able to react
to a car suddenly braking in front of our car, or
catch a ball before it hits our faces.
That depends on the nervous system. Myelinated
neurons can transmit over speeds of tens of meters
per second, typically around 50 m/s. This is
unique to vertebrates; invertebrate animals
need to increase the diameter of the neuron. That
said, giant squid are able to get signals moving
very fast as well, just by having nerve cells
large enough to be visible to the naked eye.
There is no simple answer.
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