Functions of the Nervous System
1. Permits sensory input
Receptors in PNS respond to both external and internal stimuli
2. Performs integration
CNS sums all the input and “decides” what (if anything) to do about it
If a response is needed the CNS “figures out” how to carry out that response
3. Stimulates motor output
CNS sends signal through the PNS to the effectors
The signal is the “instruction set” to respond to the sensory input
Effectors are muscles and glands, execute the planned response
PNS – cranial and spinal nerves; projections from the CNS to the rest of the body and inputs from the rest of the body back to the CNS
Motor - efferent, nerves from CNS deliver motor information to effectors
Sensory - afferent; nerves from structures outside the CNS deliver sensory input to the CNS
Neurons, transmit nerve impulses
Neuroglial cells - support the function of neurons
Dendrites – receive input and conduct impulses toward cell body (usually)
Cell bodies – contains nucleus and other organelles
Axons – conduct impulses away from the cell body
Types of Neurons
Sensory neurons (afferents) – conduct impulses from periphery to CNS
Motor neurons (efferents) – conduct impulses from CNS to periphery
Interneurons (association neurons) conduct impulses within CNS
Schwann cells – PNS, produce myelin sheaths in PNS
Satellite cells - PNS, surround neuron cell bodies, help regulate chemical environment
Microglial cells – CNS, phagocytic, macrophage like
Astrocytes – CNS, star shaped, provide support between neurons an capillaries
Oligodendroglial cells – CNS, produce myelin sheaths in CNS
Ependymal cells – line cavities in CNS, produce and help circulate CSF
There is more Na+ outside the cell than inside, and more K+ inside the cell than outside.
Na+ diffuses in through leakage channels, K+ diffuses out through leakage channels.
K+ diffuses out faster than Na+ diffuses in, so more positive charges end up on the outside of the cell.
The negatively charged internal proteins and the unequal Na+ and K+ distribution across the membrane contribute to making the cell membrane kind of like a battery, with a positive pole on the outside and a negative pole on the inside.
The membrane is said to be “polarized”.
The difference between the positively charged outside part of the membrane and the negatively charged inside of the membrane represents potential energy – since opposite charges attract and like charges repel a positively charged particle would shoot straight through the membrane from outside to inside if it could get through.
This potential energy can be measured: It is called a membrane potential and the amount of potential energy (the difference in charge between the inside and outside of the plasma membrane) is measured in volts (or millivolts at the level of a cell).
At equilibrium the membrane potential is called a resting membrane potential.
(The Na+ and K+ distributions are maintained by the Na+ - K+ pump; this protein pumps Na+ back out of the cell and K+ back into the cell to maintain the uneven charge distribution; this is the equilibrium that produces the resting membrane potential.
If Na+ and K+ diffused until the concentration of each was the same on both sides of the membrane they would be in equilibrium with regard to distribution but then the cell wouldn't have a resting membrane potential, which turns out to be pretty useful.)
A stimulus to a neuron can cause rapid influx of large amounts of Na+ through voltage-regulated Na+ channels, which causes a large change in polarity - a depolarization as the inside becomes less negative until the polarity is reversed and the inside becomes positive compared to the outside.
After depolarization the voltage-regulated Na+ channels close and voltage-regulated K+ channels open, allowing K+ to diffuse out of the cell and reverse the depolarization (this is called repolarization).
The time required for repolarization to occur is the refractory period, during which the cell can't be restimulated.
Another problem you may run into is this: Having all that Na+ inside the cell and all that K+ outside the cell eventually will lead to ionic imbalance; however the proper distribution of Na+ and K+ is restored by the Na+ - K+ pump.
As this change in polarity moves down the membrane a nerve impulse is transmitted along the cell - the wave of depolarization coming down the axon opens more voltage-regulated Na+ channels which reinforce the action potential and insures that it will reach the axon terminal.
As the wave of depolarization moves down the axon the degree of depolarization is decreased by the presence of leakage channels, allowing Na+ and K+ to move freely across the membrane.
Myelinated axons conduct action potentials much more quickly than unmyelinated axons because in myelinate axons the leakage channels are only found at the nodes of Ranvier – which is also where the voltage regulated Na+ channels are located. The depolarization wave can open the cluster of voltage regulated Na+ channels located here and overcome the effects of ion leakage.
Conduction is slow in small unmyelinated fibers, fast in thick myelinated fibers.
A synapse is where the axon terminal (synaptic knob) of a neuron meets a dendrite on another neuron (or cell membrane of effector).
There is no physical contact, they are separated by a small space (the synaptic cleft).
Presynaptic membrane vs. postsynaptic membrane – well, the plasma membrane of the axon terminal before the synapse would be the presynaptic membrane and the plasma membrane of the cell on the other side of the synaptic cleft would be the postsynaptic membrane.
When the action potential reaches the axon terminal voltage-regulated calcium channels open, calcium floods into the axon terminal, and causes the synaptic vesicles to fuse with the presynaptic axon plasma membrane and release neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft.
Depending on the neurotransmitter and the type of receptor on the postsynaptic membrane the result of binding can be excitatory or inhibitory.
When neurotransmitters are released from the presynaptic membrane they transmit the stimulus across the synaptic cleft to receptors on the postsynaptic membrane.
The receptors are linked to (or part of) chemically regulated ion channels; binding causes the channels to open and a graded local potential is generated.
These receptors may be excitatory, like those linked to Na+ channels – when NT binds the channels open, Na+ floods in, and a graded local potential called an excitatory postsynaptic potential is generated.
Some receptors are inhibitory, that is, they let negatively charged ions like Cl- in to the cell (which hyperpolarizes the membrane) or they may let positively charged ions like K+ out of the cell (which also hyperpolarizes the membrane), generating an inhibitory postsynaptic potential.
The sum of all the graded local potentials must reach threshold (depolarization of 15 - 20 mV or so less negative than the resting membrane potential) when they reach a voltage-regulated Na+ channel to generate an action potential.
Acetylcholine – active in all parts of the nervous system
Acetylcholine esterase - breaks acetylcholine down to remove from synapse
Norepinephrine – adrenergic; can be stimulatory or inhibitory depending on receptor type present on postsynaptic cell
Serotonin and dopamine – behavioral states; mood, tension, learning, memory
Neurotransmitters and neurological disorders
Imbalance in dopamine (probably some serotonin too)
Wide-eyed, unblinking expression
Involuntary tremor of fingers an thumbs
Huntington's disease (chorea)
Progressive deterioration of nervous system leading to constant thrashing and writhing (thus "chorea")
Onset is usually mid-30's to early 40's, prognosis is insanity and death. The cause is genetic and is one of the few genetic diseases caused by a dominant mutation. The tragedy is that an affected parent has a 50% chance of passing the gene to their children but they don't show signs of the disease until after they've given birth (assuming childbirth occurs before mid-30's).
Possible malfunction of GABA (another NT)
Gradual loss of reason, including memory, personality changes, ability to perform simple tasks, confusion
AD neurons exhibit neurofibrillary tangles surrounding the nucleus
Amyloid plaques surround axon branches
Acetylcholine appears diminished in AD-affected brains
Neural abnormalities seen primarily in frontal lobes and limbic system
16% liklihood in people with no family history
24% in people with first degree relative
May be linked to a genetic defect on chromosome 21
People with Down’s syndrome (3 copies of chromosome 21) are more likely to develop AD
The defect on chromosome 21 affects normal production of amyloid precursor protein, which is though to be the cause of amyloid plaques
Drugs: cholinesterase inhibitors allow acetylcholine accumulation; memantine, blocks excitotoxicity (diseased neurons self destruct and cause death of nearby neurons
Future possibilities: autologous induced pluripotent stem cell transplants, gene therapy where applicable
Meninges – protective membranes
Dura mater – outer layer
Tough, fibrous CT
Lies next to skull and vertebrae
Forms channels (splits into 2 layers; actually consists of 2 fused layers in most places) called dural sinuses that collect and return venous blood to circulation.
Epidural hematoma – bleeding between dura and bone.
Subdural hematoma – bleeding below dura, into space between dura mater and arachnoid.
Delicate, web-like CT
Attaches to pia mater
Subarachnoid space contains Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)
Thin, fine follows contours of brain closely
A clear fluid derived from plasma that forms protective cushion around CNS, provides nutrients, and collects wastes.
CSF is produced at choroid plexuses, specialized capillary networks where ependymal cells filter plasma (and circulate the CSF).
CSF circulates through the ventricles, into the central canal of spinal cord, into the subarachnoid spaces, and returns to veins of the brain where it drains into the dural sinuses and returns to blood.
Production and drainage are balanced; blockage produces hydrocephalus.
In infants the cranial sutures haven’t fused so the head can enlarge to accommodate the fluid.
In adults the brain gets mashed against the skull.
Extends from the base of the brain through the foramen magnum, down the vertebral canal (middle of vertebrae) and ends between 1st and 2nd vertebrae
External white matter surrounding butterfly shaped gray matter with a central canal
Gray matter is described as anterior or dorsal horns and posterior or ventral horns
Gray matter contains cell bodies and short unmyelinated fibers
Sensory neurons enter through the dorsal roots, motor neurons exit through the ventral roots, roots join to form spinal nerves
White matter contains bundles of myelinated fibers or tracts that form columns running up and down the spinal cord
Ascending tracts take sensory nerve impulses up to the brain
Descending tracts take motor nerve impulses down and out to effectors
Center for reflex arcs
Communication between brain and peripheral nerves
Tracts crossover in the medulla; right side of brain controls left side of body and vice versa
Cauda equina (distal portion of spinal cord - "horse's tail"), spinal nerves “chase” exit point because vertebral column grows more quickly than cord
Epidural anesthesia – inject it in the epidural space and numb everything below the level of injection
Spinal Cord Injuries
Partial section or transection of cord
Location and severity of injury determines what part of body is affected
Betwween T1 ad L2 – paralysis of lower body and legs – paraplegia
Between C4 and T1 – entire body and 4 limbs – quadriplegia
Unilateral hemisection (half cut) motor loss on same side as injury (crossover occurs in medulla)
The two lateral ventricles are associated with the cerebrum, the third ventricle is associated with the diencephalon, and the the fourth ventricle is associated with the brain stem and cerebellum.
Measures electrical activity of the brain
Good diagnostic tool – irregular brain patterns can indicate pathologic conditions (epilepsy to brain death for example; although functional MRI studies show blood flow and have helped elucidate areas of the brain active during specific tasks.)
Waking subjects have 2 types of brain waves
Alpha waves – predominate when eyes are closed; calm, relaxed state of wakefulness
Beta waves – predominate when eyes are open, indicate mental alertness, concentration
Theta waves – light sleep, not seen normally in awake adults (although common in children)
Delta waves – deep sleep
REM sleep – EEG pattern looks like alph waves, eyes move rapidly beneath eyelids, dreaming occurs
Largest and most superior part of brain
Outer cortex of gray matter
Contains cell bodies and short fibers
Convolutions known as gyri
Shallow grooves known as sulci
Deep grooves known as fissures
Accounts for sensation, voluntary movement, and consciousness
The right and left cerebral hemispheres are divided by the longitudinal fissure and joined by a bridge of myelinated fibers, the corpus callosum.
Each hemisphere contains a lateral ventricle
Each hemisphere has 4 lobes
Frontal lobe - deeo to the frontal bone, anterior to the parietal lobe
Central sulcus – divides frontal lobe from parietal lobe
Parietal lobe - deep to the parietal bone, posterior to the frontal lobe
Occipital lobe - deep to the occipital bone in the most posterior area of the cranial vault
Temporal lobe - deep to the temporal bone, separated from the frontal lobe and parietal lobe by the lateral sulcus
Insula - the fifth lobe, the insula, lies deep to the lateral sulcus
Primary Motor Area: in the frontal lobe just anterior to the precentral gyrus; responsible for movement of skeletal muscle
Somatic motor neurons cross over after leaving the primary motor area so the right primary motor area controls the left side of the body and the left primary motor area controls the right side.
Primary Somatosensory Area: in the parietal lobe just posterior to the precentral gyrus; receives input from temperature, touch, pressure, and pain receptors in the skin.
Like the motor areas, the left hemisphere recieves somatosensory input from the right side of the body and the right hemisphere recieves input from the left side of the body.
The figure below, depicting the areas of the cortex that exert voluntary motor control and recieve sensory input, illustrates that areas with the greatest amount of control or sensitivity have the greatest amount of cortex devoted to them.
Primary taste area (gustatory cortex) - located in the insula just deep to the parietal lobe
Primary visual area - located in the occipital lobe
Primary auditory area - located in the temporal lobe
Olfactory cortex - located on the medial aspect of the temporal lobe, part of the rhinencephalon, link to the limbic system
Visceral sensory area - located just posterior tot he gustatory cortex in the insula, involved in conscious perception of visceral sensation
Vestibular (equilibrium) cortex - conscious awareness of balance, located in the posterior part of the insula and adjacent parietal cortex
Association areas integrate sensory input and store memories - interpret sensory experiences and remember visual scenes, music, and other complex sensory patterns
Premotor area - organizes motor functions for skilled motor activities and communicates with the primary motor cortex. The primary motor cortex sends signals to the cerebellum and basal nuclei, which integrate the information.
Somatosensory association area - posterior to the primary somatosensory area, process and integrates sensory information from skin and muscles
Visual association area - combines new visual images with memories of older visual information
Auditory association area - combines new auditory data with memories of previously encountered auditory stimuli
Anterior Association Area (Prefrontal cortex)
Most complicated cortical region
Intellect, complex learning, personality
Abstract ideas, judgment, reasoning, persistence, planning concern for others, and conscience
Linked to limbic system, role in mood
Prefrontal lobotomy – treatment of severe mental illness (‘30s to ‘50s); reduced anxiety (and judgment, initiative, spurred abnormal personality changes, caused epilepsy, etc.)
Prefrontal area (Prefrontal cortex; Anterior Association Area) – recieves input from other association areas, is used for concentration, planning, persistence, complex problem solving, abstract ideas, judging the consequences of behavior, concern for others, conscience, and personality.
The anterior association area (prefrontal cortex) is linked to the limbic system and plays a role in mood.
Damage to these areas can completely change personality traits.
Posterior Association Area (General interpretation area or gnostic area)
Input from all sensory association areas
Storage site for complex memories associated with sensation
Integrates input into understanding of situation, sends assessment to prefrontal cortex
Prefrontal cortex adds emotion and decides on response
Damage to this area results in inability to interpret situations (imbecility) Found in one hemisphere only (usually left)
Language areas – included in posterior association area
Broca’s area – motor area for speech
Located at the base of the precentral gyrus in the frontal lobe
Usually located in left hemisphere
Wernicke's area - recieves inputs from all other sensory association areas, works with Broca's area in understanding speech and the use of language to express thoughts and feelings.
Usually located in the left hemisphere
Connects Broca's and Wernicke's areas via a region of the parietal lobe of the cortex, and may be important for the acquisition of language in childhood.
Apparently the last area in the brain to mature, the completion of its maturation coinciding with the development of reading and writing skills.
Affective language areas
Present in hemisphere opposite Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas
Affect – tone, both to impart and to interpret
Add emotional input to speech, interpret emotional content of speech
The Left and Right Brain
Sperry and Gazzaniga’s experiments - severed corpus callosum in epileptic patients
Found that the hemispheres are pretty much structurally the same but functionally different
Dominant hemisphere is defined as the hemisphere containing language abilities ( Broca’s area, Wernicke’s area)
90% of people have dominant left hemispheres
Left brain (usually) controls language, logic, math skills
Right brain controls spatial discrimination, musical and artistic ability, intuition and emotion
Projection Fibers (vertical): Myelinated axons carry information from CNS to the body (descending tracts), from the body and lower brain centers to the CNS (ascending tracts)
Horizontal Fibers: Association fibers carry information between different areas of the cerebrum within the same hemisphere and commissural fibers link corresponding areas in opposite hemispheres (corpus callosum, anterior commissure).
Masses of gray matter deep within the white matter of the cerebrum
Part of limbic system – not really, this statement reflects the fact that the caudate nucleus is usually included with the basal nuclei and is really a part (functionally) of the limbic system
Receive inputs from entire cerebral cortex, other nuclei, and each other
Project to the premotor and prefrontal cortices through thalamic relays, influence voluntary muscle movements directed by the primary motor cortex
No direct involvement in motor pathways
Impairment results in disturbances in posture, muscle tone, involuntary movements including tremors and abnormal slowness of movement as seen in Parkinson’s disease
Central relay station for sensory impulses traveling from everywhere else to the cerebrum
Receives all sensory impulses except smell and sends them to the correct region of the cerebral cortex to be interpreted
Contains centers for regulating hunger, sleep, thirst, body temperature, water balance, and blood pressure
Controls pituitary gland – links nervous system with endocrine system
Epithalamus - contains the pineal gland, which secretes the hormone melatonin.
Melatonin regulates sleep-wake patterns (daily rhythyms)
System of pathways connecting parts of the frontal lobes, temporal lobes, thalamus, and hypothalamus
The emotional brain – responsible for feelings of anger, fear, sorrow, pleasure, affection, sexual interest
Involved in learning and memory, links emotion to stored memories
Arose from the ancient rhinencephalon or “smell brain”
Our sense of smell has diminished and those structures have evolved to deal with emotions, memory, and learning
Responsible for the strong link between smell and emotionally charged memories
Lies below posterior portion of cerebrum
Two hemispheres joined by narrow medial bridge
Cortex of gray matter
Deeper white matter (some nuclei in white matter)
Muscle coordination – integrates impulses from higher centers to produce smooth and graceful motion
Maintains normal muscle tone and posture
Receives information about body position from inner ear and sends impulses to muscles to maintain or restore balance
Centers for regulating heartbeat, breathing, and blood pressure
Reflex centers for vomiting, coughing, sneezing, hiccoughing, and swallowing
Ascending and descending tracts between higher brain centers and spinal cord
Bridge; tracts running between cerebellum and the rest of the CNS
Coordinates with medulla to regulate breathing
Reflex centers for head movements in response to visual and auditory stimuli
Encloses cerebral aqueduct
Relay station for tracts that run between cerebrum and spinal cord and cerebellum
Reflex centers for visual, auditory, and tactile responses
System of loosely clustered neurons extending through brainstem with projections (all over) to hypothalamus, thalamus, cerebellum, spinal cord
Functions: Arousal of brain
Reticular Activating System
Receives sensory inputs from all ascending sensory tracts and sends impulses to cerebral cortex through thalamic relays
Maintains cortex in alert conscious state, enhances excitability
Filters out repetitive, familiar or weak signals
Brings attention to unusual, significant, or strong impulses
Role in learning and memory; part of “reward pathway”
Depressed by alcohol, sleep-inducing drugs, tranquilizers; severe injury results in unconsciousness (permanent = coma)
Damped by sleep centers of hypothalamus, etc.; damping removed by LSD and other hallucinogens
Motor arm projects to spinal cord
Helps control skeletal muscles during coarse movement of limbs
Include vasomotor, cardiac, and respiratory centers of the medulla
Afferent, or sensory system
Somatic sensory system includes all the fibers that innervate the musculoskeletal system, including skin, joints, and tendons (in addition to skeletal muscles); the special senses are also part of the somatic sensory system.
Visceral sensory system supplies internal organs.
Efferent, or motor system
Somatic motor system innervates skeletal muscles.
Autonomic motor system innervates smooth and cardiac muscle and glands.
Cranial nerves are attached to the brain, spinal nerves are attached to the spinal cord.
Twelve pairs attached to the brain
Consist of motor, sensory, and mixed nerves
Innervate head, neck and facial regions, except the vagus nerve (internal organs)
Thirty one pairs
8 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 5 saccral, 1 coccygeal
Dorsal and ventral roots leave cord, fuse to form spinal nerves just before exiting the vertebral column
Dorsal roots contain sensory neurons
Dorsal roots have enlargements that contain the cell bodies of the sensory neurons (dorsal root ganglia)
Ventral roots contain axons of motor neurons
Spinal nerves contain sensory “dendrites” and motor axons; they are mixed nerves
Dermatomes – segments of skin supplied by a particular spinal nerve
Knowledge of which spinal innervates a particular dermatome allows interpretation of sensory aberrations in a dermatome as an indicator of damage to that particular spinal nerve
Reflexes and the Reflex Arc
Automatic, involuntary responses to changes occuring either inside or outside the body
Cranial reflexes involve the brain, spinal reflexes involve only the spinal cord although the brain is usually notified
Receives sensory input and transduces that information into a nerve impulse
Impulses are transmitted to the sensory neuron dendrites
Receptors may be just free dendritic endings of the sensory neuron
Sensory neuron fiber
Unipolar – dendritic ending, long axon on both sides of cell body– draw it and explain it
Axon located in a spinal nerve
Cell bodies of sensory neurons are located in the dorsal-root ganglion (ganglia – groups of cells bodies in the PNS)
Axon continues into the gray matter of the dorsal horn where they form synapses with interneurons
Located completely within the gray matter of the spinal cord
Dendrites and cell body located within the gray matter’s ventral horn
Axon located in the spinal nerve
Information travels along the sensory neuron to the interneuron and back through the motor neuron to elicit a response
In the case of skeletal muscle the muscle contracts and moves the body part out of harm’s way or moves to maintain posture
Innervates smooth and cardiac muscle and glands (all internal organs)
Involuntary – doesn’t require voluntary control; automatic
Utilizes 2 motor neurons and one ganglion for each impulse
First neuron has cell body in CNS and preganglionic axon
Second neuron has it’s cell body within the ganglion and it’s axon is postganglionic
Occur in response to normal physiological fluctuations
Food digestion and waste elimination
Swallowing, coughing, sneezing, vomiting
Fight or flight division
Fibers arise from thoracic and lumbar regions of the spinal cord (also called the thoracolumbar division)
Ganglia lie very near the spinal cord; short preganglionic fibers, long post ganglionic fibers
Postganglionic axons release NE
Resting and digesting division
Fibers arise from cranial and sacral nerves (craniosacral division)
Ganglia lie near the organ that is innervated; long preganglionic fibers, short post ganglionic fibers
Postganglionic axons release acetylcholine
Begin to lose thousands of neurons a day after age 60
By age 80 brain weighs about 10% less
Cerebral cortex loses as much as 45% of its cells
Learning, memory, and reasoning decline