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The sensory input

This diagram shows the first step of the previous figure. A hand is placed under flowing water, causing a sensory receptor in the index finger to send a nerve impulse down the arm, to the spinal cord.
Receptors in the skin sense the temperature of the water.

The neurotransmitter diffuses across the short distance of the synapse and binds to a receptor protein of the target neuron. When the molecular signal binds to the receptor, the cell membrane of the target neuron changes its electrical state and a new graded potential begins. If that graded potential is strong enough to reach threshold, the second neuron generates an action potential at its axon hillock. The target of this neuron is another neuron in the thalamus    of the brain, the part of the CNS that acts as a relay for sensory information. At another synapse, neurotransmitter is released and binds to its receptor. The thalamus then sends the sensory information to the cerebral cortex    , the outermost layer of gray matter in the brain, where conscious perception of that water temperature begins.

Within the cerebral cortex, information is processed among many neurons, integrating the stimulus of the water temperature with other sensory stimuli, with your emotional state (you just aren't ready to wake up; the bed is calling to you), memories (perhaps of the lab notes you have to study before a quiz). Finally, a plan is developed about what to do, whether that is to turn the temperature up, turn the whole shower off and go back to bed, or step into the shower. To do any of these things, the cerebral cortex has to send a command out to your body to move muscles ( [link] ).

The motor response

This diagram shows the later steps of Figure 12.13. A hand is placed under flowing water. The axon of a motor neuron travels down the forearm and then branches as it reaches the hand. Each branch synapses with a different skeletal muscle in the hand. The synapse between the axon branches and the muscle is a neuromuscular junction. An impulse travelling down the motor neuron will cause the skeletal muscles to contract, resulting in muscle movement. In this case, the movement results in the person adjusting the faucet dials to change the temperature of the water.
On the basis of the sensory input and the integration in the CNS, a motor response is formulated and executed.

A region of the cortex is specialized for sending signals down to the spinal cord for movement. The upper motor neuron    is in this region, called the precentral gyrus of the frontal cortex    , which has an axon that extends all the way down the spinal cord. At the level of the spinal cord at which this axon makes a synapse, a graded potential occurs in the cell membrane of a lower motor neuron    . This second motor neuron is responsible for causing muscle fibers to contract. In the manner described in the chapter on muscle tissue, an action potential travels along the motor neuron axon into the periphery. The axon terminates on muscle fibers at the neuromuscular junction. Acetylcholine is released at this specialized synapse, which causes the muscle action potential to begin, following a large potential known as an end plate potential. When the lower motor neuron excites the muscle fiber, it contracts. All of this occurs in a fraction of a second, but this story is the basis of how the nervous system functions.

Career connections

Neurophysiologist

Understanding how the nervous system works could be a driving force in your career. Studying neurophysiology is a very rewarding path to follow. It means that there is a lot of work to do, but the rewards are worth the effort.

The career path of a research scientist can be straightforward: college, graduate school, postdoctoral research, academic research position at a university. A Bachelor’s degree in science will get you started, and for neurophysiology that might be in biology, psychology, computer science, engineering, or neuroscience. But the real specialization comes in graduate school. There are many different programs out there to study the nervous system, not just neuroscience itself. Most graduate programs are doctoral, meaning that a Master’s degree is not part of the work. These are usually considered five-year programs, with the first two years dedicated to course work and finding a research mentor, and the last three years dedicated to finding a research topic and pursuing that with a near single-mindedness. The research will usually result in a few publications in scientific journals, which will make up the bulk of a doctoral dissertation. After graduating with a Ph.D., researchers will go on to find specialized work called a postdoctoral fellowship within established labs. In this position, a researcher starts to establish their own research career with the hopes of finding an academic position at a research university.

Other options are available if you are interested in how the nervous system works. Especially for neurophysiology, a medical degree might be more suitable so you can learn about the clinical applications of neurophysiology and possibly work with human subjects. An academic career is not a necessity. Biotechnology firms are eager to find motivated scientists ready to tackle the tough questions about how the nervous system works so that therapeutic chemicals can be tested on some of the most challenging disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, or spinal cord injury.

Others with a medical degree and a specialization in neuroscience go on to work directly with patients, diagnosing and treating mental disorders. You can do this as a psychiatrist, a neuropsychologist, a neuroscience nurse, or a neurodiagnostic technician, among other possible career paths.

Chapter review

Sensation starts with the activation of a sensory ending, such as the thermoreceptor in the skin sensing the temperature of the water. The sensory endings in the skin initiate an electrical signal that travels along the sensory axon within a nerve into the spinal cord, where it synapses with a neuron in the gray matter of the spinal cord. The temperature information represented in that electrical signal is passed to the next neuron by a chemical signal that diffuses across the small gap of the synapse and initiates a new electrical signal in the target cell. That signal travels through the sensory pathway to the brain, passing through the thalamus, where conscious perception of the water temperature is made possible by the cerebral cortex. Following integration of that information with other cognitive processes and sensory information, the brain sends a command back down to the spinal cord to initiate a motor response by controlling a skeletal muscle. The motor pathway is composed of two cells, the upper motor neuron and the lower motor neuron. The upper motor neuron has its cell body in the cerebral cortex and synapses on a cell in the gray matter of the spinal cord. The lower motor neuron is that cell in the gray matter of the spinal cord and its axon extends into the periphery where it synapses with a skeletal muscle in a neuromuscular junction.

Questions & Answers

this is muscular system?
Patel Reply
to have a better understanding as to how our human bodies function. the knowledge we gain can improve our quality of life. Without our study of anatomy how could a doctor know what prescription to give us when our bodies is being attacked by a bacteria? We wouldn't!
Robin Reply
discuss nervers system in human being life.
Allen Reply
neuralgia what is other name of it
Muniba
how are neurons adapted to their function
Namiyaba Reply
machenic support production of blood cells locomotion protection of delicate organs
Ackson Reply
what are hormones?
Ackson
what is anatomy
Juma Reply
what are the functions of bones
Michael
To support and control the movements of the body
Mu
the study of human body is called anatomy
mishra
the study of human body is nt only anatomy but also physiology and histology
Evans
ooops lol I thought Michael was the one with the questions so sorry people. yes anatomy is the study of the body(structure)and it's physiology (functions).
Mu
what are the muscles of respiration?
Dorisha
Hi everyone, Why actyl choline decreases blood pressure although it affects adrenal gland leading it to secret adrenaline and noradrenaline which increase blood pressure?
cholinergic receptors are mostly under Parasympathetic response while adrenergic (norepinephrine) receptors are mostly sympathetic although they are cholinergic adrenergic receptors as well
Ayodeji
vocal cords
MT Reply
musah was admitted to your ward yesterday with traumatic amputation of the right thump . he complained this morning that he has not passed enough urine. Questions. 1) will you consider his complain to be pathological or physiological?. 2) in less than three sentences, justify your opinion. 3) Apply your understanding of the renin- angiotensin-aldosterone system to explain the factors and mechanisms accounting for his complains.
Ellen Reply
the mineral salt which break up a large portion of bone tissue is
Aurora Reply
calcium
Calcium
Sawda
please I need help. musah was admitted to your ward yesterday with traumatic amputation of the right thump. he complained this morning that he has not passed enough urine. Questions. 1). will you consider his complain to be pathological or physiological?.
Ellen
2). In less than three sentences, justify your opinion.
Ellen
Physiological
Ruth
musah copmlan to be physiological because of:-
Juma
cholesterol and triglycerides in simplest terms are fats (lipid) found in blood
Roy Reply
calcium is important for bone density and development. it also helps for safe / normal blood clotting, blood circulation to and from the heart, and muscle movement
Roy
please undertand me action potential ?
Josoph
minimum potential that must be overcomed to cause polarization and stimulate a neuronal response( generate impulse)
Ayodeji
what is muscle tissue
Rifat Reply
the muscle tissue is one of the 4 basic tissues in our body and is responsible for movement of our body
What Is difference between Ovary and Ovum
Sawda
ovary is female reproductive organ while ovum is a female gamete formed from ovary
Ubaidah
Thank You
Sawda
What Is Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Sawda
the mineral salt which break up a large portion of bone tissue
Aurora
in simple way muscle tissue is responsible for movement of our body.
Wellington
Hi Be Home Be safe , how are things doing hope all is well
Natarajan Reply
3 longitudinal bands of smooth muscles found in large intestines
Jamia
what's is sutures
Nimeshka Reply
what would I like to know
Roy Reply
anything u can tell me
Roy
anatomy mins
Manish
when two or more bones meet.
Joseph
Joints
Anita

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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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