The Nervous System processes electrical stimulus from sensory receptors, it transfers and interprets signals to control the body’s muscles and organs. The nervous system is comprised of the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system and autonomic nervous system.
There are three main anatomical structures that play a pivotal role in the nervous system being the brain, nervous tissue and the spinal cord.
The brain comprises of the brain stem, cerebellum and cerebrum. The brain stem is located at the base of the brain and starts from the upper cervical spinal cord and finishes at the diencephalon of the cerebrum. The brain stem is split into medulla, pons and mid brain. Behind the brain stem is the cerebellum which is located below the cerebrum. Its role is to co-ordinate musculoskeletal movement, control posture and balance. The cerebrum is made up of 4 lobes being frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital. These four lobes are associated with reasoning, movement, visual processing and auditory perception.
Nervous tissue is comprised of neurons and glial cells which both play a role in cell to cell signalling. Neurons are the main type of cells held accountable for the computation and communication that the nervous system produces. Glial cells play a supporting role for the nervous tissue to function.
The Spinal Cord
The spinal cord and its associated nerves are the most important structure between the body and the brain. They are a vital link between the brain and the body, and from the body to the brain structured by sensory and motor tracts and complex pathways (afferent and efferent).
The spinal cord is a tubular collection of nerve fibres measuring approx. 40 – 50cm long that extends from the brain stem running down through the foramen magnum and ending at the lumbar region (L1-L2) at this point it becomes the cauda equina and continues through the remainder of the spinal column which is part of the central nervous system.
The spinal cord is protected by 24 vetebrae that is known as the spine, it is split into 5 regions referred to as cervical region C1-C7 (neck); thoracic region T1-T8 (chest) lumbar region L1-L5 (lower back); sacral region S1-S5 (posterior of the pelvis) and coccygeal region C1-C4 (rear of the spine).
There are 31 pairs of associated nerves which attaches from the junction between each vertebra and innervates to the body to perform certain actions such as the cervical nerves control breathing and arm movements; thoracic nerves control chest and abdominal muscle movements; lumbar nerves control hip and leg movements along with bowel and bladder function; sacral and coccyx nerves control balance, bladder, bowel and sexual function.
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