Anatomy: Nervous System

Made up of your brain, your spinal chord, and a 47 mile network of nerves that thread through your body, the nervous system is the communication center for coordinating actions and reactions. Using chemistry, electricity and bundles of sensory cells (neurons), messages are rapidly delivered to and from your central nervous system.

When a nerve is stimulated, an electrical impulse is created, and travels down the finger of the neuron. At the end of the neuron, the impulse triggers chemicals to assist the impulse in jumping to the next neuron. This process repeats until the message is delivered, and occurs far faster than it took you to read this. Neurons can be very tiny, three feet long, and everything in between.

The somatic nervous system processes voluntary motor actions and the autonomic nervous system controls the actions that we do not willfully control. The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic and the parasympathetic subsystems, which work in tandem like our government’s branches of checks and balances (sometimes there’s a team and sometimes it’s gridlock). To learn more about the autonomic subsystems, peruse Neurology.

Parts Involved in the Nervous System

  • Brain & spinal chord – central nervous system
  • Nerve pathways throughout the body make the peripheral nervous system
  • Neurons – thin threads of nerve cells bundled together to form ‘telephone wires’ of communication

Nervous Functions

  • Collects vast quantities of information about body state in relation to environmental state, analyzes and adjusts to satisfy needs, most powerfully, survival
  • Controls body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, physical motion et cetera
  • Provides the means to think, dream, reason, experience and accomplish

Nervy Fun Facts

While some endocrine responses take hours, nerve impulses travel as fast as 250 miles per hour!

The human body has 47 miles of nerve pathways.

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