Parts and Functions of the Central Nervous System
The central nervous system is considered the backbone of the body. It is composed of the brain, spinal cord and a complicated network of neurons which all work together. The nervous system plays a vital role in the body because it sends, receives and interprets information from all the other parts of the body. It is therefore responsible of monitoring and coordinating the functions of all internal organs. It communicates changes in the external environment to the body which in turn responds appropriately.
How the Central Nervous System functions
Basically, the nervous system of the human body is divided into two main parts:
- The Central Nervous System
- The Peripheral Nervous System
The central nervous system acts as the processing center for all information in the nervous system. It thus sends and receives information from the peripheral nervous system. In the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord play very important roles.
The spinal cord sends important sensory information to the brain which in turn processes and interprets it. The brain and spinal cord are both covered and protected by three layers of connective tissue referred to as the meninges.
The central nervous system also has a system of hollow cavities. These are referred to as the ventricles and contain cerebrospinal fluid. The cerebrospinal fluid transports nutrients to the brain. It also surrounds, cushions and protects the spinal cord and brain from any shocks or trauma.
The brain is considered the control center of the body for several reasons. It plays a vital role in all the activities of the central nervous system. It is made up of three main components:
- The forebrain – this receives and processes sensory information. It is in charge of producing and understanding language as well. It also helps in thinking and perception. The forebrain has the thalamus and hypothalamus and hence is responsible for relaying sensory information, controlling motor functions and autonomic functions. Most of information procession activities in the brain take place in the forebrain because it houses the cerebral cortex and the cerebrum.
- The brainstem – this is made up of the midbrain and the hindbrain. The midbrain connects the forebrain to the hindbrain. It also plays a role in visual and auditory perceptions and responses.
- The hindbrain – this extends from the spinal cord to the brain and has structures like cerebellum and pons. The hindbrain area is important in coordination of movement, sending sensory information and most importantly maintenance of balance and equilibrium. It also controls autonomic functions like breathing, digestion and heart rate through the medulla oblongata.
The Spinal Cord
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve fibers that are cylindrical in shape and are connected to the brain. It extends from the neck to the lower back and runs down the central part of the protective spinal column. Some of the major functions of the spinal cord include:
- has nerves that transmit information from the body to the brain
- sends information from external stimuli to the brain
- sends information from the brain to the other body parts
Spinal cord nerves are divided into two:
- Ascending nerve tracts – these transmit sensory information to the brain from the body
- Descending nerve tracts – these transmit information that relates to motor functions from the brain to the other parts of the body.
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