The Neurological System Defined
The nerves carry the electrical impulses and the messages from the various parts of the body to the brain, and from the brain down to the various parts of the body. The neurological system is analogous to the electrical system in your house. The generating station is the brain, and the main wires come from the brain down through the spinal column, which is called the spinal cord, and then it branches out through the openings at the various levels of the vertebrae to various parts of the body. The nerves that come out of the cervical area go to the upper part of the body. The nerves that come out of the thoracic or middles spine go to the middle part of the body, and the nerves that come out of the lower part, or lumbar part, of the spine go to the lower part of the body.
Subdivisions of the Nervous System
The Central Nervous System is comprised of the brain, the spinal cord, the peripheral nervous system, cranial nerves, spinal nerves, and the autonomic nervous system.
The brain has multiple functions. It can receive and send stimuli or signals to other portions of the body. It has the ability to store information for future use, and by the most complicated mechanisms of integration, association, and classification, it makes possible the higher intellectual processes of memory, recall, judgment, calculation, and thinking.
The spinal cord runs down the spinal column, and it lies within the vertebral canal and is surrounded and protected by the vertebrae.
How the Nervous System Works
Intentional or voluntary movement begins with an intelligent thought, an idea that is born within the frontal lobes of the brain. From there, a nerve impulse travels along, connecting or associating neurons to selective motor nerve cells in the motor cortex of the brain. Activation of those cells initiates a nerve impulse which descends to the autonomic nervous system. This refers to the part of the nervous system that operates automatically, without your thinking about controlling those muscles. For example, you do not give any thought to holding in your bladder or your bowel movements. Those muscles are being retracted automatically in controlling your bodily functions. If those nerves were damaged, you would become incontinent because you would be unable to control those functions.
Functions of the Nervous System
The two main functions of the electrical system are touch sensation and motor function, so if you put your finger in a fire the impulses will go through the finger back up through the nerves to the brain, and tell the brain that this pain (that is, the sensation) is happening in the finger and that will automatically tell your finger and your arm to jerk back and take your hand out of the fire.
When the nerves are damaged at various levels of the body irreparably, they up to now do not regenerate, and so, from that level down, the person can become paralyzed. The higher up the spinal column the damage is, the more the body becomes paralyzed.
- Quadriplegic is generally defined as a person who has lost a moving sensation in all four limbs, both arms and both legs.
- Paraplegic is generally defines as someone who has lost the feeling and the motor function in the lower part of the body, i.e., the legs.
Science & Research
Even though to date science has not been able to regenerate the nerves, there has been a tremendous amount of research going on in that area, and they are hoping to be able to either rejuvenate the nerves by transplanting or somehow figuring out how to reattach the nerves to get the electrical impulses to go from the brain down through the severed nerves and bypass the severed nerves to the parts of the body that have been cut off from the motor function and the feelings. An analogy is to think of power line coming out of the generating station. If the power line has been cut, then there is no power going to the entire city. But if somehow the wire that is coming into your bedroom has been cut, then there will not be any electricity in the bedroom, but there will be electricity to the house and the street and the rest of the city.
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