What is the Central Nervous System?

DEFINE – What is the Central Nervous System?

The central nervous system controls all the activities within the body and includes the brain and spinal cord.

BREAKING DOWN – Central Nervous System

The central nervous system coordinates your activity, as well as takes in information and applies it accordingly. Surprisingly, the brain itself uses about 20% of the oxygen you breathe in. It further consists of over 100 billion neurons, which then connect throughout the body to many more. The brain also controls your emotions, thoughts, breathing, heart rate, and so much more. Undoubtedly, the brain is very important. As such, it’s protected by the skull. 

From the back of the brain arises the spinal cord, which travels through the spine into the lower back. These structures are further protected and supported by matter called meninges. 

The brain is divided into different lobes, including the temporal, parietal, occipital, and frontal lobes. The temporal lobe is primarily responsible for sensory input, attaching emotional meaning to entities, long-term memories, and language. The parietal lobe combines sensory information into a coordinated and understandable entity. It further has a role in language processing.  The occipital lobe is home to the visual cortex and is where visual processing takes place. Lastly,the frontal lobe includes your reward system, attention capabilities, short-term memory, planning abilities, and motivation. 

From there, the brain can be categorized and broken down into further more specific areas. For example, the hypothalamus secretes hormones and is responsible for your thirst, hunger, and body temperature. It sits just above the brainstem. 

The spinal cord is responsible for carrying information between the brain at the rest of the body. The spinal cord is the piece that connects to the peripheral nervous system, which extends to your muscles, joints, and skin. Motor commands travel down the spinal cord. In contrast, sensory info travels up the spinal cord. This area also has various spinal reflexes. This means that information does not need to travel all the way to the brain to cause a movement. An example of this is when your doctor hits your knee with a small medical instrument and you suddenly kick your leg forward. This reflex arises from the lumbar region of the spinal cord.

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