Difference between Afferent and Efferent Neurons

Updated on April 6, 2016

There are two main divisions in the peripheral nervous system – the afferent division and the efferent division. In this article, we will explore the differences between the components of these divisions – afferent and efferent neurons.


A scheme of the afferent (sensory) versus efferent (motor) nerves.

Afferent neurons carry information to the brain and spinal cord for analysis. Afferent neurons comprise afferent systems, also known as sensory systems, because they are activated by external stimuli and convey the information to the area of the brain that is responsible for processing a particular stimulus.

Efferent neurons carry information out of the brain. In the peripheral nervous system, they are usually referred to as motor neurons, because most of them carry information from the spinal cord to the various muscles; in addition, they go pretty much to every organ in the body.

Afferent vs Efferent neurons

What is the difference between afferent neurons and efferent neurons?

In biology, afferent systems like neurons carry things towards the central point, while efferent systems, for example, efferent neurons, carry the information away from the central point.

Afferent neurons are also known as sensory neurons, as they transmit to the brain information derived from sensual perceptions, such as smell, touch, taste, light, etc. Efferent neurons, on the other hand, are also known as motor neurons, because they fulfill the commands of the brain, by sending information to the various groups of muscles and fibers.

human nervous system
A schematic representation of the human nervous system with the emphasis on its two pathways- afferent (sensory) and efferent (motor)

Comparison chart

Afferent neuronsEfferent neurons
Are also called sensory neuronsAre also called motor neurons
Carry information towards the brainCarry information out of the brain


In this video you can see an analysis that explains the differences between afferent and efferent neurons:

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