Nervous System – Definition, Parts, Functions

What is Nervous System?

  • The nervous system is a complex and vital component of animals, including humans, that plays a crucial role in coordinating actions and processing sensory information. It enables the detection of environmental changes that affect the body and facilitates appropriate responses in conjunction with the endocrine system.
  • The evolution of nervous tissue can be traced back to wormlike organisms approximately 550 to 600 million years ago. In vertebrates, the nervous system consists of two main parts: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS comprises the brain and spinal cord, while the PNS primarily consists of nerves, which are bundles of long fibers called axons. These nerves connect the CNS to every other part of the body. Motor nerves, or efferent nerves, transmit signals from the brain, while sensory nerves, or afferent nerves, transmit information from the body to the CNS. Spinal nerves serve both functions, making them mixed nerves.
  • The PNS is further divided into three subsystems: the somatic, autonomic, and enteric nervous systems. Somatic nerves facilitate voluntary movement, while the autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions. The sympathetic nervous system is activated during emergencies, mobilizing energy, whereas the parasympathetic nervous system is activated in relaxed states. The enteric nervous system controls the gastrointestinal system. Both the autonomic and enteric nervous systems function involuntarily. Nerves that exit from the cranium are referred to as cranial nerves, while those exiting from the spinal cord are known as spinal nerves.
  • At the cellular level, the nervous system is defined by neurons, which are specialized cells capable of rapidly and precisely transmitting signals to other cells. Neurons employ electrochemical impulses that travel along axons. These impulses can be transmitted directly to neighboring cells through electrical synapses or can cause the release of neurotransmitters at chemical synapses. The synaptic signal received by a cell can excite, inhibit, or modulate its activity. Connections between neurons form neural pathways, neural circuits, and larger networks that contribute to an organism’s perception of the world and dictate its behavior. In addition to neurons, the nervous system includes glial cells (or glia), which provide structural and metabolic support.
  • While nervous systems are present in most multicellular animals, they exhibit considerable variation in complexity. Sponges, placozoans, and mesozoans lack a nervous system entirely due to their simple body plans. Ctenophores (comb jellies) and cnidarians (which include anemones, hydras, corals, and jellyfish) possess a diffuse nerve net as their nervous system. All other animal species, except a few types of worms, possess a nervous system composed of a brain, a central cord or cords, and nerves radiating from these structures. The size of the nervous system varies widely, ranging from a few hundred cells in simple worms to around 300 billion cells in African elephants.
  • The central nervous system functions to transmit signals from one cell to others or from one part of the body to another, while also receiving feedback. Malfunctions of the nervous system can occur due to genetic defects, physical damage from trauma or toxicity, infections, or natural aging processes. The medical specialty of neurology focuses on studying and treating disorders of the nervous system. In the peripheral nervous system, the most common issue is the failure of nerve conduction, which can result from conditions like diabetic neuropathy and demyelinating disorders such as multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The scientific field of neuroscience is dedicated to the study of the nervous system.
  • In summary, the nervous system is a complex network of neurons specialized in transmitting messages. Its complexity increases as we move up the animal kingdom, with higher organisms possessing developed brains comprising billions of interconnected neurons. In the human body, the neural system integrates organ activities based on stimuli detected and transmitted by neurons. It relies on the participation of sense organs, nerves, spinal cord, and brain to facilitate nervous coordination.

Definition of Nervous System

The nervous system is a complex network of cells and tissues that coordinates and regulates the activities of an organism by transmitting electrical signals between different parts of the body.

Cells of the Nervous System


  • Neurons, also known as nerve cells, are the fundamental units of the nervous system responsible for transmitting electrical impulses and facilitating communication within the body. They possess several distinct components that contribute to their structure and function.
  • The cell body, also called the soma, serves as the control center of the neuron. It contains the nucleus, which houses the genetic material, as well as various organelles like mitochondria and Golgi apparatus. Within the cell body, the Nissl substance can be found. These granules consist of rough endoplasmic reticulum and free ribosomes, playing a crucial role in protein synthesis necessary for the neuron’s functioning.
  • Dendrites are branching processes that extend from the cell body. They receive incoming signals from other neurons or sensory receptors and transmit them toward the soma. Dendrites play a vital role in integrating and processing incoming information.
  • The axon is a long, slender projection that emerges from the cell body at a region called the axon hillock. It carries the electrical signals, known as action potentials, away from the cell body towards the axon terminals. The axon is covered by Schwann cells, which form a myelin sheath around it. The myelin sheath acts as an insulating layer, increasing the speed of electrical conduction along the axon.
  • At the distal end of the axon, it branches out into smaller structures known as axon terminals or synaptic terminals. These terminals form synapses, which are specialized junctions where the neuron communicates with other neurons or target cells. Axon terminals contain neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that transmit signals across the synapse to the next neuron or target cell. When an action potential reaches the axon terminal, it triggers the release of neurotransmitters into the synapse, facilitating the transmission of the signal to the next neuron.
  • Overall, the structure of a neuron, including the cell body, dendrites, axon, myelin sheath, and axon terminals, enables it to receive, integrate, and transmit electrical signals, allowing for the rapid and precise communication necessary for the functioning of the nervous system.
Diagram showing some of the glial cells in relation to a neuron

Glial Cells


  • Astrocytes are specialized star-shaped glial cells found in the brain and spinal cord, comprising a significant portion (around 20-40%) of all glial cells. They perform a variety of essential functions in support of neuronal activity and overall brain function.
  • One crucial role of astrocytes is metabolic support for neurons. Neurons require a constant supply of nutrients, such as glucose, for energy production. However, neurons cannot store or produce glycogen themselves. Astrocytes come to the rescue by storing glycogen, which can be broken down into glucose to provide fuel for neurons. Additionally, astrocytes can store lactate, which serves as an alternative fuel source during periods of high energy demand or when blood supply to the brain is limited (ischemia).
  • Astrocytes also play a vital role in regulating the extracellular ionic environment. After neuronal activation, high concentrations of ions like potassium can accumulate in the extracellular space, leading to spontaneous depolarization of neurons. Astrocytes help prevent this by removing excess potassium ions from the extracellular space, restoring the balance and maintaining proper neuronal function.
  • Another critical function of astrocytes is neurotransmitter uptake. They possess specialized transporters for various neurotransmitters, such as glutamate. Rapid removal of neurotransmitters from the extracellular space is essential for normal neuronal function, and astrocytes play a key role in this clearance process.
  • In certain brain regions like the hippocampus, astrocytes are involved in the modulation of synaptic transmission. They release ATP, which triggers the production of adenosine. Adenosine, in turn, inhibits synaptic transmission, influencing the overall activity and function of neuronal circuits. This release of signaling molecules by astrocytes, known as gliotransmitters, adds another layer of complexity to synaptic activity regulation.
  • Lastly, astrocytes promote myelination by oligodendrocytes. Myelin is a fatty substance that forms an insulating layer around neuronal axons, enhancing the speed and efficiency of electrical signal transmission. Astrocytes contribute to the development and maintenance of myelin by providing crucial support and signaling molecules to oligodendrocytes, the cells responsible for myelination.
  • Overall, astrocytes play multifaceted roles in supporting neuronal function and maintaining a healthy brain environment. Their functions include metabolic support, ionic regulation, neurotransmitter uptake, modulation of synaptic transmission, and promoting myelination, all of which contribute to the proper functioning of the nervous system.


  • Oligodendrocytes are a type of glial cell found in the central nervous system (CNS), responsible for the insulation of axons. Their primary function is to produce a myelin sheath, which wraps around and protects segments of axons, facilitating efficient electrical signal conduction.
  • Unlike Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system, which myelinate a single segment of an axon, a single oligodendrocyte can myelinate multiple axonal segments. This ability to myelinate multiple axons allows oligodendrocytes to provide insulation and support to numerous neurons simultaneously, making them a crucial component of the CNS.
  • The myelin sheath produced by oligodendrocytes consists of multiple layers of lipid-rich membranes. This myelin sheath acts as an electrical insulator, preventing signal leakage and enhancing the speed and efficiency of nerve impulse transmission along the axon. The gaps between myelin segments are known as nodes of Ranvier, where the axon is exposed. These nodes play a vital role in the rapid conduction of nerve impulses.
  • By forming myelin sheaths, oligodendrocytes contribute to the proper functioning of the CNS. They help in the coordination and transmission of signals, allowing for precise and rapid communication between different regions of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Damage or loss of oligodendrocytes or disruption of the myelin sheath can lead to impaired signal conduction and neurological disorders. Conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) involve a breakdown of myelin due to an autoimmune response, resulting in a range of neurological symptoms.
  • In summary, oligodendrocytes are specialized glial cells in the CNS that play a crucial role in insulating axons through the production of myelin sheaths. Their ability to myelinate multiple axonal segments allows for efficient signal conduction and supports the proper functioning of the central nervous system.
Diagram showing the axon of a neurone in relation to the associated oligodendrocyte and myelin sheath
Diagram showing the axon of a neurone in relation to the associated oligodendrocyte and myelin sheath


  • Microglia are specialized immune cells that reside in the central nervous system (CNS), specifically in the brain. They make up approximately 10 to 15% of the total cell population in the brain and have a distinct origin from other glial cells, as they originate from the mesoderm rather than the ectoderm.
  • One of the primary functions of microglia is to act as the resident immune system of the brain. They play a crucial role in the defense and protection of the CNS. When tissue damage or injury occurs in the brain, microglia become activated and respond to the site of damage.
  • Microglia have the unique ability to recognize foreign antigens and initiate phagocytosis, a process by which they engulf and remove foreign material, dead cells, and debris. This phagocytic activity helps in clearing away potential harmful substances and maintaining the overall health of the brain.
  • Additionally, microglia can also function as antigen-presenting cells. Antigen presentation is an important process in the immune response, where immune cells present foreign antigens to other immune cells, such as T cells, to initiate an immune reaction. By acting as antigen-presenting cells, microglia can participate in immune surveillance and activate other immune cells when necessary.
  • It’s worth noting that microglia play a role beyond immune response. They have been implicated in various physiological processes in the CNS, such as synaptic pruning during development, regulating neurogenesis, and modulating neuronal activity. Microglia also have the ability to release signaling molecules called cytokines, which can influence the surrounding neuronal environment and contribute to the regulation of brain function.
  • However, dysregulation or overactivation of microglia can have detrimental effects. Excessive inflammation or chronic activation of microglia has been associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Understanding the role of microglia in these conditions is an active area of research, as it could potentially lead to the development of therapeutic interventions.
  • In summary, microglia are the resident immune cells of the CNS and play a critical role in maintaining brain health. They respond to tissue damage, recognize foreign antigens, initiate phagocytosis, and can function as antigen-presenting cells. By performing these functions, microglia contribute to the immune defense and surveillance within the brain, ensuring its proper functioning and protection.

Ependymal cells

  • While the ependyma and its cells play a vital role in the production and circulation of cerebrospinal fluid, another set of cells known as microglia serves as the guardians of brain health. Microglia are a type of immune cells found in the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. They make up about 10-15% of the total cells in the brain and are an essential component of the brain’s immune defense system.
  • Microglia, derived from myeloid progenitor cells, are unique in their origin and function. Unlike other immune cells that migrate from the bloodstream into the brain during infection or injury, microglia are resident cells, meaning they are already present within the central nervous system. During development, they arise from primitive yolk sac progenitors and populate the brain early on, establishing a long-lasting and highly specialized immune surveillance network.
  • These specialized cells have a distinct morphology, characterized by small cell bodies and multiple branching processes. Their highly dynamic and constantly moving processes allow them to survey the brain microenvironment and monitor for any signs of injury, infection, or inflammation. When a threat is detected, microglia become activated and undergo morphological changes, transforming into an amoeboid-like shape and migrating towards the site of damage or pathology.
  • Microglia play a crucial role in maintaining brain homeostasis. They act as phagocytes, engulfing and removing cellular debris, dead neurons, and harmful pathogens. Additionally, microglia actively participate in synaptic pruning during brain development, ensuring proper wiring and connectivity. By eliminating excessive or malfunctioning synapses, microglia contribute to the fine-tuning of neural circuits.
  • Furthermore, microglia are involved in the regulation of the brain’s immune response. They release various signaling molecules, including cytokines and chemokines, which can either promote inflammation or help resolve it. This delicate balance is crucial for preventing excessive inflammation, which can be detrimental to the brain.
  • Recent research has highlighted the diverse functions of microglia beyond their immune surveillance role. Microglia are actively involved in synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory. They interact with neurons and other glial cells, such as astrocytes, in a highly complex and dynamic network. Dysregulation or dysfunction of microglia has been implicated in various neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Understanding the intricate interplay between microglia and brain function is an active area of research, offering potential avenues for therapeutic interventions.
  • In conclusion, while the ependymal cells contribute to the production and circulation of cerebrospinal fluid, microglia serve as the guardians of brain health. These resident immune cells play a vital role in immune surveillance, phagocytosis, synaptic pruning, and the regulation of inflammation in the central nervous system. Their dynamic interactions with neurons and other glial cells underscore their significance in brain function and disease. Unlocking the mysteries of microglia promises to unravel new insights into neurological disorders and pave the way for novel therapeutic approaches in the future.
Diagram showing some of the glial cells in relation to a neuron
Diagram showing some of the glial cells in relation to a neuron

Nervous System Structure and Diagram

The human nervous system, a marvel of evolution, is a highly intricate organ system comprised of two main components:

  1. Central Nervous System (CNS): This encompasses the brain and spinal cord, which serve as the command center and information processing hub of the body. The brain, enclosed within the skull, interprets sensory input, controls voluntary and involuntary actions, and governs cognitive functions such as memory, emotion, and reasoning. The spinal cord, protected within the spinal column, acts as a conduit, transmitting signals between the brain and the rest of the body.
  2. Peripheral Nervous System (PNS): The PNS comprises all the nerves that extend from the CNS to the various parts of the body. It functions as a vast network of communication pathways, transmitting signals between the CNS and different organs, tissues, and cells. The PNS branches out into two divisions: the sensory division (afferent) carries sensory information from the body to the CNS, while the motor division (efferent) relays motor commands from the CNS to the muscles and glands, enabling voluntary and involuntary movements.

Together, the CNS and PNS work in unison, allowing us to perceive and interact with the world around us, regulate bodily functions, and maintain homeostasis. The complexity and interconnectivity of the human nervous system make it a remarkable feat of biological engineering, facilitating our ability to sense, think, and respond to our environment.

Nervous System Structure and Diagram
Nervous System Structure and Diagram

Central Nervous System

The Central Nervous System (CNS) serves as the body’s central processing unit, comprising two integral components: the brain and the spinal cord.



The brain is an incredibly vital and delicate organ that serves as the command center of the human body. It is housed and protected within the skull, and it is further shielded by three membranous coverings known as meninges. The outermost layer is the dura mater, providing a tough protective barrier. Beneath it lies the arachnoid, which contains blood vessels, and the innermost layer is the delicate pia mater. These meninges enclose and safeguard the brain.

Within the meninges, there is a fluid called cerebrospinal fluid, which acts as a cushion, nourishing the brain and absorbing shocks, thereby providing additional protection.


The brain can be divided into three main parts:

  1. Cerebrum: The cerebrum is the largest portion of the brain and is divided into two halves known as cerebral hemispheres. It encompasses and controls various regions of the brain. The outer surface of the cerebrum is lightly convoluted, with ridges and grooves, which significantly increase the surface area. The two hemispheres are connected by a structure called the corpus callosum. The outer part of the cerebrum is composed of grey matter, while the inner side is made up of white matter. The cerebrum is responsible for mental activities such as thinking, reasoning, intelligence, and memory. It also processes sensory impulses related to pain, touch, smell, taste, hearing, and vision.
  2. Cerebellum: The cerebellum is a smaller part of the brain located at the base, beneath the large cerebrum and above the medulla oblongata. It consists of two large lobes called cerebellar hemispheres. The cerebellum has an inner core of white matter surrounded by grey matter. Its primary function is to maintain body balance and coordination of muscular activities. It plays a crucial role in fine motor control, muscle tone, and equilibrium.
  3. Medulla Oblongata: The medulla oblongata is a triangular-shaped structure situated at the base of the skull. It is the lowest part of the brain. The medulla oblongata controls involuntary activities essential for survival, such as heart rate, respiration, swallowing, coughing, and sneezing. It serves as a vital center for regulating various autonomic functions and acts as a connection between the brain and the spinal cord.

The brain, with its intricate structure and specialized regions, governs a wide array of functions that are essential for our existence. From cognitive processes and sensory perception to motor coordination and vital physiological activities, the brain orchestrates the complex symphony of human life.


Spinal Cord

  • The spinal cord, a cylindrical bundle of nerve fibers and supportive tissues, serves as a vital communication pathway between the brain and the rest of the body. It is situated within the protective enclosure of the vertebral column, beginning its journey in continuation with the medulla and extending downwards. Encased within the bony cage of the spine, the spinal cord is shielded by layers of protective membranes known as meninges.
  • One of the key functions of the spinal cord is to facilitate spinal reflex actions. These reflexes allow for rapid, automatic responses to stimuli without requiring direct involvement of the brain. When a sensory stimulus is detected, such as touching a hot surface, nerve impulses travel through the sensory neurons of the spinal cord, triggering an immediate motor response that causes the muscles to contract and move the body away from the source of danger.
  • Additionally, the spinal cord acts as a conduit for the conduction of nerve impulses to and from the brain. Sensory information collected by sensory neurons throughout the body is transmitted to the brain via the spinal cord, allowing us to perceive and interpret various sensations, such as touch, temperature, pain, and proprioception (awareness of body position). Conversely, motor commands originating in the brain are conveyed through the spinal cord to the appropriate muscles, enabling voluntary movements and coordinated actions.
  • The spinal cord plays a crucial role in relaying information between the brain and the body, facilitating communication and coordination of bodily functions. It acts as a central hub, ensuring efficient transmission of nerve signals and allowing for reflexive responses to protect the body from harm. The intricate network of nerves within the spinal cord forms a complex neural highway, enabling the seamless integration of sensory and motor information throughout the body.
  • Understanding the spinal cord’s structure and function is essential for comprehending the intricate workings of the nervous system. Its critical role in both reflex actions and the transmission of nerve impulses highlights the spinal cord’s significance as a key component of the central nervous system, working in tandem with the brain to support our physical movements, sensations, and overall well-being.

Peripheral Nervous System

The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) is a crucial component of the nervous system that branches out from the central nervous system (CNS) and connects various parts of the body. It enables both voluntary and involuntary actions through the intricate network of peripheral nerves.

The PNS is composed of two types of nerve fibers:

  1. Afferent Nerve Fibers: These fibers are responsible for transmitting messages from tissues and organs to the CNS. They carry sensory information such as touch, temperature, pain, and proprioception from the body’s periphery to the brain and spinal cord for processing and interpretation.
  2. Efferent Nerve Fibers: These fibers convey messages from the CNS to the corresponding peripheral organs, enabling motor responses and control. They are responsible for carrying signals that initiate muscle contractions and regulate the function of various organs.

The Peripheral Nervous System can be further classified into two major divisions:

  1. Somatic Nervous System (SNS): The SNS controls voluntary actions by transmitting impulses from the CNS to the skeletal muscles. It enables conscious movement and allows us to interact with the environment. The SNS consists of somatic nerves that carry signals related to voluntary motor control, such as walking, talking, and manipulating objects.
  2. Autonomic Nervous System (ANS): The ANS is involved in regulating involuntary actions that maintain homeostasis and control physiological functions. It operates without conscious effort and influences processes such as digestion, respiration, heart rate, and glandular secretion. The ANS further divides into two branches:a. Sympathetic Nervous System: The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for heightened activity, stress, or emergency situations. It triggers the “fight or flight” response, increasing heart rate, dilating blood vessels, and mobilizing energy resources to cope with perceived threats.b. Parasympathetic Nervous System: The parasympathetic nervous system promotes relaxation, rest, and digestion. It counterbalances the effects of the sympathetic system, conserving energy, slowing heart rate, and facilitating digestion and elimination.
Peripheral Nervous System
Peripheral Nervous System

The Peripheral Nervous System acts as a vital link between the CNS and the body, facilitating communication, motor control, and regulation of bodily functions. It allows us to perceive the world through our senses and execute voluntary movements, while also maintaining essential involuntary processes to ensure overall well-being. The intricate organization and functionality of the PNS contribute to the remarkable complexity of the human nervous system.



A neuron is a fundamental unit of the nervous system, possessing a distinct structure and specialized function. Unlike other cells, neurons exhibit irregular shapes and possess the remarkable ability to transmit electrochemical signals. Let’s explore the different components of a neuron:

  1. Dendrites: Dendrites are branching extensions that emanate from the cell body of a neuron. These structures receive incoming signals from other neurons or sensory receptors, allowing for the integration of information within the neuron.
  2. Axon: The axon is an elongated fiber that extends from the cell body of a neuron. It is the longest projection of the neuron and is surrounded by a protective sheath called myelin. The axon serves as a conduit for transmitting electrical impulses, known as action potentials, away from the cell body to other neurons, muscles, or glands.
  3. Cell Body: The cell body, also known as the soma, contains the nucleus and cytoplasm of the neuron. It houses the genetic material and carries out essential metabolic processes necessary for the neuron’s survival and functioning.
  4. Synapse: The synapse is a minuscule gap that exists between two adjacent neurons. It serves as the site of communication and signal transmission between neurons. When an electrical impulse reaches the end of an axon, it triggers the release of neurotransmitters into the synapse. These neurotransmitters then bind to receptors on the adjacent neuron, transmitting the signal across the synapse to the receiving neuron.

Neurons play a pivotal role in transmitting and processing information throughout the nervous system. They receive signals through their dendrites, integrate the incoming information within the cell body, and transmit signals along their axons. The synapse facilitates the transfer of signals from one neuron to another, enabling communication and coordination within the neural network.

The complexity and organization of neurons allow for the intricate functioning of the nervous system, facilitating sensory perception, motor control, cognitive processes, and overall coordination of bodily functions. Neurons form intricate networks, collectively working together to transmit and process information, forming the foundation of our thoughts, actions, and experiences.


Nerves are slender, thread-like structures that originate from the brain and spinal cord. They play a crucial role in carrying messages, known as nerve impulses, to and from different parts of the body. Let’s explore the main types of nerves and their functions:

  1. Sensory Nerves: Sensory nerves, also known as afferent nerves, are responsible for transmitting messages from the sensory organs and receptors throughout the body to the brain. These nerves play a vital role in conveying sensory information such as touch, temperature, pain, taste, and vision, allowing us to perceive and interpret the world around us.
  2. Motor Nerves: Motor nerves, also referred to as efferent nerves, carry messages from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles and glands in the body. They are involved in controlling voluntary movements, as well as the functioning of organs and glands. Motor nerves allow us to perform various actions by transmitting signals that initiate muscle contractions and regulate bodily functions.
  3. Mixed Nerves: Mixed nerves, as the name suggests, carry both sensory and motor nerve fibers. They are a combination of sensory and motor nerves and serve as the communication pathway between the brain, spinal cord, and different parts of the body. These nerves enable bidirectional transmission of information, allowing for coordinated sensory perception and motor responses.

Nerves can transmit signals at remarkable speeds. Some neurons are capable of firing signals at speeds exceeding 119 meters per second (428 kilometers per hour). This rapid transmission allows for quick responses and efficient communication within the nervous system.

Nerves can be further categorized based on their origin:

  • Cranial Nerves: Cranial nerves emerge directly from the brain and are responsible for carrying impulses to and from the central nervous system. Some cranial nerves are classified as mixed nerves, while others fall into the category of sensory nerves. They play a critical role in various sensory and motor functions related to the head, face, and neck.
  • Spinal Nerves: Spinal nerves originate from the spinal cord and are involved in transmitting impulses to and from the central nervous system. All spinal nerves are classified as mixed nerves, meaning they carry both sensory and motor fibers. These nerves extend to different regions of the body, connecting the central nervous system to various organs, muscles, and sensory receptors.

The intricate network of nerves facilitates communication and coordination within the nervous system. Through the transmission of nerve impulses, the body can perceive sensory information, initiate motor responses, and maintain vital physiological functions. Nerves form an essential component of the complex neural architecture, enabling us to interact with our environment and carry out a wide range of actions.

Functions of Nervous System

The nervous system performs several essential functions that are crucial for the proper functioning of the human body. Here are some of the key functions of the nervous system:

  • Sensory Function: The nervous system is responsible for sensing and perceiving information from the internal and external environments. It receives input from sensory receptors, such as those for touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing, allowing us to be aware of and respond to our surroundings.
  • Integration: The nervous system integrates sensory information received from various sources and processes it to generate appropriate responses. It combines and interprets sensory inputs, facilitating a coordinated and meaningful response.
  • Motor Function: The nervous system controls voluntary and involuntary movements of muscles and organs. Motor neurons transmit signals from the central nervous system to the muscles, enabling actions such as walking, talking, and grasping objects. It also controls involuntary processes, like the beating of the heart and digestion.
  • Homeostasis: The nervous system helps maintain the body’s internal environment within a narrow and optimal range. It regulates various physiological processes, such as body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration, to keep them balanced and stable.
  • Cognitive Functions: The nervous system is responsible for higher cognitive functions, including learning, memory, thinking, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making. These functions are predominantly associated with the brain’s complex neural networks and play a vital role in our ability to process information and interact with the world.
  • Emotional Regulation: The nervous system is involved in regulating emotions and emotional responses. It influences the release of neurotransmitters and hormones that play a role in mood, emotional states, and stress responses.
  • Reflex Actions: The nervous system controls reflex actions, which are rapid and involuntary responses to stimuli. Reflexes are mediated by simple neural pathways that bypass conscious processing and allow for immediate and automatic reactions to potential threats or dangers.
  • Communication and Coordination: The nervous system enables communication and coordination between different parts of the body. It facilitates the transmission of signals and information between the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves, ensuring efficient communication and integration of functions.
  • Protection and Defense: The nervous system contributes to the protection and defense mechanisms of the body. It detects and responds to potential dangers, initiating fight-or-flight responses to help ensure survival in threatening situations.
  • Development and Growth: During development, the nervous system plays a crucial role in shaping the structure and connectivity of the brain. It guides the growth and differentiation of neurons, establishing the intricate neural networks that underlie all functions of the nervous system.

These functions collectively enable the nervous system to regulate and coordinate the activities of the body, ensuring its proper functioning and adaptation to the environment.


What is the nervous system?

The nervous system is a complex network of nerves and cells that transmit signals between different parts of the body. It controls and coordinates body functions, allowing us to respond to stimuli and maintain homeostasis.

What are the two main components of the nervous system?

The nervous system is divided into two main components: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord, while the PNS includes all the nerves that extend from the CNS to the rest of the body.

What is the function of the brain?

The brain is the control center of the nervous system. It receives and processes sensory information, initiates motor responses, regulates emotions, and is responsible for higher cognitive functions such as thinking, memory, and decision-making.

What is the role of the spinal cord?

The spinal cord is a long, cylindrical bundle of nerve fibers that extends from the brain down the vertebral column. It serves as a pathway for transmitting nerve signals between the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal cord also controls reflex actions and coordinates motor functions.

What are neurons?

Neurons are specialized cells that are the building blocks of the nervous system. They are responsible for transmitting electrical and chemical signals throughout the body. Neurons consist of a cell body, dendrites, and an axon.

How does the peripheral nervous system function?

The PNS connects the CNS to the rest of the body. It consists of sensory neurons that carry information from sensory receptors to the CNS, and motor neurons that transmit signals from the CNS to muscles and glands, enabling voluntary and involuntary actions.

What is the autonomic nervous system?

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is a division of the PNS that regulates involuntary functions of the body, such as heart rate, digestion, and breathing. It is further divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions, which have opposing effects on these functions.

What is a neurotransmitter?

Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that transmit signals between neurons. They are released from the axon of one neuron and bind to receptors on the dendrites or cell body of another neuron, allowing for the transmission of nerve impulses.

How does the nervous system control movement?

The nervous system controls movement through a complex coordination of signals. Motor neurons in the CNS send signals to muscles, causing them to contract and produce movement. Sensory feedback from receptors in the muscles and joints helps adjust and fine-tune movements.

How can the nervous system be affected by diseases or disorders?

The nervous system can be affected by various diseases and disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and epilepsy. These conditions can disrupt the normal functioning of the nervous system, leading to a wide range of symptoms and impairments.

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