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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

what is hypoxia
Akas Reply
I guess it's low supply the oxygen to the tissues
famuyiwa
yup
Natalie
A condition in which tissues (especially the blood) are deprived of an adequate supply of oxygen
Panthera
hanifa pia uko hapa
Panthera
where is present Glenoid Cavity ?
A- Reply
what is the muscular tissue
Md Reply
muscular tissue is a type of tissue that provide to help in cotraction to aur body.
A-
What's the difference in epithelial, connective, muscular and muscle tissue
Gifty
and it's similarities
Gifty
what is limb bone
Akshu Reply
this are bone attaching or joining to the axial bone.axial bone including skull,vertebrate and ribcage
Eliasi
how many bones make up the skull?
Matthew
22 bones
Husna
22bones
Bhanu
where is present Glenoid cavity ?
A-
how many bone in skull
Md
Explain the stages of mitosis and cell division
Bella Reply
systems of human body
Udezue Reply
define lymphatic system And give the composition of lymphatic fluid
sakshi Reply
the network of vessels through which lymphatic drains From the tissue into blood.lymph contain variety of substance like salts, glucose, proteins and fatsand water, white blood cells
Bhanu
yeah
Hassan
what is lymphatic system
Adie Reply
the network of vessels through which lymph drains from tissue into the blood
Bhanu
to describe the boundaries of four cavity
Pius Reply
homeostatic variables such as body temperature fluctuates within a normal range around the set point, or ideal, for a given homeostatic condition. for example, 98.6°F is a set point for body temperature. The response of the effector determines whether or not the homeostatic variable remains in the n
Chidinma Reply
why rbc is biconcave?
Sudhakar Reply
to carry oxygen easily
anwaar
What part of the brain controls the body temp
Ridwan
hypothalamus
JAYESH
what are epithelial tissues
Sachibu Reply
epithelial tissue that cover overall parts of the body and it's free from blood and nerves
Bhanu
Epithelial tissues are composed of cells laid out in sheets with strong cell-to-cell attachments.
Duah
Epithelial tissues perform a variety of functions that include; protection, secretion, filtration, diffusion, absorption, etc.
Duah
what control the flow of the blood ?
Donkor Reply
the pumping action of the heart
Holly
what is bony promises on the human body
Kelly Reply
what is the bony promises on human body
Kelly
what are bony prominences on human body
Kelly
support of the body
Bhanu
what are the characteristics of blood
yeboah Reply
they are red in colour
Tawoi
why blood is red in color?
Sudhakar
blood is red because it contains hemoglobin
Abena

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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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