I have just learnt about neurons. I wonder why neurons have only one axon. Can they transmit nerve impulses faster and more rapidly when they have more axons? Does having more axons help in coordination?

Could anyone tell me why neurons have only one axon?

  • $\begingroup$ "Technically", not always true... psyweb.com/Physiological/Neurons/NImages/Unipolar.gif $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ are you considering multiple axons that transmits a single (synchronized) action potential? Or multiple action potentials generated at separate axon hillock? $\endgroup$
    – Memming
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ i saw from a website that mentioned that "each neuron has only one axon" but i didn't understand why. $\endgroup$
    – lmathl
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ csuchico.edu/~pmccaffrey/syllabi/CMSD%20320/362unit12.html paragraph 7 $\endgroup$
    – lmathl
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps it's to do with the timing and energy of the ion flow in the Neuron, because the cell hasn't got the flexibility to efficiently manage two axon timing and energy potential with as much precision and power as two cells with one axon. After all, with millions of neurons to coalesce into systems, flexibility is there, added flexibility would be redundant and efficiency of the individual building blocks is necessary. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 8:21

2 Answers 2


Neurons generally have one axon, because of the way it sums potentials from its dendrites. Right at the axon hillock (the little area where the axon protrudes from the soma), all the potentials are summed together. Now, you have to consider that what is actually summed here is dependent on the shape of the neuron, potentials lose amplitude as they travel towards the axon hillock. If there were multiple axons protruding from different sites, they would send out different signals and compromise the computational integrity of the neuron.

Instead of having multiple axons, a neuron simply branches its axon with axon collaterals. This way, all post synaptic sites are receiving virtually the same message.


I think during the early evolution of nervous systems it was very important to have long axon cells. For example a worm has 3 giant axons which are almost the same length than the worm itself. So there was selection pressure on the length of the axon. The neuron requires a lot of energy to send signals to other neurons. Neurons use energy on nanowatt scale, average human cells use energy on picowatt scale... By long axons it requires less energy to send the message through a single axon than send it through multiple axons. That's the same why we use limited amount of undersea internet cables - currently about 200. If there is more data than a single cable can handle, only then lay we a parallel cable. So a possible answer is evolution of worm nervous systems combined with energy consumption optimization.

Another answer can be that neurons would be never capable to build multiple action potentials parallel. Maybe they cannot consume enough energy to hold charges separated by multiple axons. I don't intend to look for the details of that. It is technically possible to have neurons with multiple axons, so you can grow things like that, but it is not clear if their axons can work parallel or not, and if they don't work parallel does they interfere the communication of each other.

About single axon neural networks there are existing mathematical models. Until there is no mathematical model how a neural network with multiple axons would work, or there is no evidence of it is not possible to build such a thing, you cannot say for sure that it is because of the mathematics of neural networks.

So I have this 3 theories. I think you can find more about this topic by googling a lot, and making new experiments. For me it was enough. :-)


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