The Nervous System
An Overview of the Neurological System
The Nervous System
The Neurological system is an advanced communication system between the brain and the entire body. Similar to an information processor, it is divided into two primary systems: the Central Nervous System and the Peripheral Nervous System.
The Central Nervous System regulates almost all bodily functions and can be compared to an information headquarter. Comprised of the brain and the spinal cord it is vital to almost all aspects of everyday living.
The Central Nervous System relies on networks of specialized cells, called neurons, that coordinate actions and transmit signals between the different areas of the body. There are several kinds of neurons including sensory neurons, which perceive physical stimuli and translate them into neural signals; and motor neurons, which translate signals into the actions of glands or muscles. Neurons communicate with other cells through synapses, which are membranous junctions allowing the rapid transmission of electrical or chemical signals between cells.
The brain, protected by the head, uses the sensory nerves for taste, hearing and sight to process external information. Once the information has been processed, the brain then relays commands through the spinal cord, the peripheral nervous system and the somatic nervous system throughout the body. The brain also processes and stores memories, thoughts, dreams, emotions, communications and language and is responsible for making abstract leaps in understanding.
The Spinal Cord
The spinal cord is protected by the bones of the spinal column within the spinal cavity. It is the primary pathway of information coming to and from the brain and the peripheral nervous system. Comprised of thousands of nerves fibers, the spinal cord extends from the base of the brain downwards through the spine approximately 18 inches.
How Does The Neurological System Work?
The Central Nervous System communicates with the Peripheral Nervous System to control actions and automatic functions of the body. The Peripheral nervous system consists of nerve system structures that are not part of the central nervous system. Cranial nerves and spinal nerves are part of the peripheral nervous system, as are the Somatic Nervous System, the Autonomic Nervous System and the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems.
The Somatic & Autonomic Nervous System
The nerves of the Somatic Nervous System control the muscles and systems under our conscious or voluntary control including the muscles of the limbs, torso and face.
The nerves of the Autonomic Nervous System control the involuntarily actions and systems of the body including peristalsis, the heartbeat, and pupil dilation. The Autonomic Nervous System is made up of components of Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems.
The Sympathetic Nervous System is an emergency response system more commonly known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. It stimulates organ and cellular function, speeds up the heart rate and slows digestion whenever a threat is perceived.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System is responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ response and calms organ and cell function. Absolutely necessary for healing and recuperation, this system regulates an individual’s resting heart rate, digestive function and muscular relaxation.