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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Identify the anatomical and functional divisions of the nervous system
  • Relate the functional and structural differences between gray matter and white matter structures of the nervous system to the structure of neurons
  • List the basic functions of the nervous system

The picture you have in your mind of the nervous system probably includes the brain    , the nervous tissue contained within the cranium, and the spinal cord    , the extension of nervous tissue within the vertebral column. That suggests it is made of two organs—and you may not even think of the spinal cord as an organ—but the nervous system is a very complex structure. Within the brain, many different and separate regions are responsible for many different and separate functions. It is as if the nervous system is composed of many organs that all look similar and can only be differentiated using tools such as the microscope or electrophysiology. In comparison, it is easy to see that the stomach is different than the esophagus or the liver, so you can imagine the digestive system as a collection of specific organs.

The central and peripheral nervous systems

The nervous system can be divided into two major regions: the central and peripheral nervous systems. The central nervous system (CNS)    is the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system (PNS)    is everything else ( [link] ). The brain is contained within the cranial cavity of the skull, and the spinal cord is contained within the vertebral cavity of the vertebral column. It is a bit of an oversimplification to say that the CNS is what is inside these two cavities and the peripheral nervous system is outside of them, but that is one way to start to think about it. In actuality, there are some elements of the peripheral nervous system that are within the cranial or vertebral cavities. The peripheral nervous system is so named because it is on the periphery—meaning beyond the brain and spinal cord. Depending on different aspects of the nervous system, the dividing line between central and peripheral is not necessarily universal.

Central and peripheral nervous system

This diagram shows a silhouette of a human highlighting the nervous system. The central nervous system is composed of the brain and spinal cord. The brain is a large mass of ridged and striated tissue within the head. The spinal cord extends down from the brain and travels through the torso, ending in the pelvis. Pairs of enlarged nervous tissue, labeled ganglia, flank the spinal cord as it travels through the rib area. The ganglia are part of the peripheral nervous system, along with the many thread-like nerves that radiate from the spinal cord and ganglia through the arms, abdomen and legs.
The structures of the PNS are referred to as ganglia and nerves, which can be seen as distinct structures. The equivalent structures in the CNS are not obvious from this overall perspective and are best examined in prepared tissue under the microscope.

Nervous tissue, present in both the CNS and PNS, contains two basic types of cells: neurons and glial cells. A glial cell    is one of a variety of cells that provide a framework of tissue that supports the neurons and their activities. The neuron    is the more functionally important of the two, in terms of the communicative function of the nervous system. To describe the functional divisions of the nervous system, it is important to understand the structure of a neuron. Neurons are cells and therefore have a soma    , or cell body, but they also have extensions of the cell; each extension is generally referred to as a process    . There is one important process that every neuron has called an axon    , which is the fiber that connects a neuron with its target. Another type of process that branches off from the soma is the dendrite    . Dendrites are responsible for receiving most of the input from other neurons. Looking at nervous tissue, there are regions that predominantly contain cell bodies and regions that are largely composed of just axons. These two regions within nervous system structures are often referred to as gray matter    (the regions with many cell bodies and dendrites) or white matter    (the regions with many axons). [link] demonstrates the appearance of these regions in the brain and spinal cord. The colors ascribed to these regions are what would be seen in “fresh,” or unstained, nervous tissue. Gray matter is not necessarily gray. It can be pinkish because of blood content, or even slightly tan, depending on how long the tissue has been preserved. But white matter is white because axons are insulated by a lipid-rich substance called myelin    . Lipids can appear as white (“fatty”) material, much like the fat on a raw piece of chicken or beef. Actually, gray matter may have that color ascribed to it because next to the white matter, it is just darker—hence, gray.

Questions & Answers

Card 5 / 12: For whom would an appreciation of the structural characteristics of the human heart come more easily: an alien who lands on Earth, abducts a human, and dissects his heart, or an anatomy and physiology student performing a dissection of the heart on her very first day of class? Why?
Gelowe Reply
what are regular shaped cells with granules in the cytoplasam
Kabita Reply
PMNL
Dinu
I need sylubuss of clinical officers book
Omary Reply
cholesterol normal value is
BISWANATH Reply
less than 200mg/dl
Ashis
100 to159mg/dL
Dinu
Early this wk. I had some "A & P" questions & answers unfortunately didn't save them, Is there any way I can have them back ,so as 2 save them?. Thnx.
Kechi
what are the functions of the female reproductive system
Lister Reply
it produces the female egg necessary for reproduction, called the Ova or Oocytes. The system is designed to transport the Ova to the site of fertilization.
Kechi
Female reproductive system was mainly functioned to produce ova(ovum) (female eggs) Into which will be fertilized by male gamete to produce zygote
Omary
absolutely right
nimco
wa qalad nimco rage iska hubi
Khaliil
waxwalba ka fikirbay ubaahantahay
Ahmed
ha wayo jawabtoda wa qabyo nimco wey ku raacdat
Khaliil
ha wayo jawabtoda wa qabyo nimco wey ku raacday
Khaliil
wxayaabaha qaarkood waaa in aan u feejignaano
Ahmed
asc if I try female reproductive system has two function the first is to produce egg cell and the second is to protact and nourish the offspring until birth
Muriidi
what is stercobilinogen
Hancerich Reply
fecal urobilinogen. Created by bacteria in the gut. a chemical that gives feces brown color.
Blayne
next question pls.
Kechi
The rate of diffusion increases if the
stella
What's the answer?
Kechi
it's a breaking down of haemoglobin and it's a chemical made by bacteria
Dev
Thnx Dev Raj.
Kechi
yup so any more
Dev
yes I sure do need more "Questions" & "Answers". I'm learning whole lot. Thnx.
Kechi
what is the greatest muscle of the body
Lungu Reply
gluteus maximus
ABDULLAH
pls!!! more "A&P" questions & answers. Thnx.
Kechi
Gluteus maximus
THE
Describe anatomy of cardiovascular system?
cardiovascular system is a group of organs coming together to perform the circulation of blood. The organs invoked are the heart and the blood vessels with blood being the tissue. The heart is a pump and it pumps oxygenated blood through the systemic circuit and deoxygenated blood through the pulmon
bernard
pulmonary circuit.
bernard
more A&P questions pls. Thnx.
Kechi
If an ANOVA yields a significant F value, you could rely on ________ to test significant differences between group means.
Dane Reply
what's ANOVA
Cassandra
analysis of variance
Blayne
plz what you mean with "ANOVA" first
Fatima
anova means analysis of variance, a statistical method in which the variation in a set of observations is divided into distinct components.
Blayne
M value ot test
ABDULLAH
What does it mean by M value ot test?
Orpha
formation of red blood cells
Biketi Reply
explain why... lower back pain in ovarian cancer
Srijoni Reply
we says that protoplasm is the living part of us How?
Muzamil Reply
is the leaving part of our cellular structure.
Eric
it is the leaving part of our blood cellular structure also
ABDULLAH
what is receptor?
Preity Reply
an organ or cell able to respond to light, heat, or other external stimulus and transmit a signal to a sensory nerve.
Jessi
Has anyone taken the first exam?
Sandra
yes
yahye
yes
Allan
hey what is the process after your food is swallowed? how long does it take to get to the stomache until it is released as waste?
Fednise Reply
that is such a broad question. as you begin to swallow its various doses down the alimentary canal that brings the food into your stomach.then depending on whether it's a protein carbohydrate fat that dictates what function takes place in your stomach. these are all steps of digestion.
Joseph
typo sorry it's peristalsis , wave-like projections that push food down your alimentary canal etc. digestion starts in your mouth ends in your large intestines (colon anus)
Joseph
some of the many processes of digestion include hydrolysis dehydration synthesis denaturation of proteins etc. you have to be more specific.
Joseph
there's many different contributing factors the how long it takes food to convert into waste. remember fats, triglycerides proteins and carbohydrates all breakdown two different monomers and structures. you should be looking up metabolic processes.
Joseph
depending how much fiber you have in your diet dictates how much water is brought to your intestines that has to do with excretion whether fiber is insoluble or soluble. this is an anatomy and physiology app. to simply say the stomach will empty its contents in 2 to 3 hours would do you a disservice
Joseph
can the study of anatomy relate to medical technologies
Lean Reply
yes
Khh
absolutely
Jessi
yes...
Sherif
how can I understand micro biology and anatomy better.
Cassandra
yes
Kevin
someone to help me understand glycogeneogenesis
abel
what are the major branches of the aorta?
Kevin
look youtube video
Jessi

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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