Each nerve is covered externally by a dense sheath of connective tissue, the epineurium. Underlying this is a layer of flat cells, the perineurium, which forms a complete sleeve around a bundle of axons. Perineurial septae extend into the nerve and subdivide it into several bundles of fibres. Surrounding each such fibre is the endoneurium. This forms an unbroken tube from the surface of the spinal cord to the level where the axon synapses with its muscle fibres, or ends in sensory receptors. The endoneurium consists of an inner sleeve of material called the glycocalyx and an outer, delicate, meshwork of collagen fibres. Nerves are bundled along with blood vessels, since the neurons of a nerve have fairly high energy requirements.
Within the endoneurium, the individual nerve fibres are surrounded by a low-protein liquid called endoneurial fluid. This acts in a similar way to the cerebrospinal fluid in the central nervous system and constitutes a blood-nerve barrier similar to the blood-brain barrier. Molecules are thereby prevented from crossing the blood into the endoneurial fluid. During the development of nerve edema from nerve irritation (or injury), the amount of endoneurial fluid may increase at the site of irritation. This increase in fluid can be visualized using magnetic resonance neurography, and thus MR neurography can identify nerve irritation and/or injury.
Herophilos 335–280 BCE, described the optic nerve and the oculomotor nerve for sight and eye movement. Analysis of the nerves in the cranium allowed him to differentiate between blood vessels and nerves i.e. Ancient Greek: νεῦρον (neûron), “string (plant fiber), nerve”.
Nerves are categorized into three groups based on the direction that signals are conducted:
Nerves can be categorized into two groups based on where they connect to the central nervous system: