Author: Jana Vasković•Reviewer: Nicola McLaren MScLast reviewed: September 16, 2021Reading time: 20 minutes

Nervous system (anterior view)

The nervous system is a netjob-related of neurons whose main attribute is to geneprice, modulate and also transmit indevelopment in between all the different parts of the human body. This building permits many type of essential features of the nervous mechanism, such as regulation of vital body attributes (heartbeat, breathing, digestion), sensation and body motions. Ultimately, the nervous device frameworks preside over everything that makes us human; our consciousness, cognition, behaviour and also memories.

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The nervous device consists of two divisions; 

Key facts about the nervous system
DefinitionA netjob-related of neurons that sends out, receives and also modulates neural impulses in between different body components.
DivisionsCentral nervous systemPeripheral nervous system
Central nervous systemBrain and also spinal cord
Peripheral nervous systemSpinal and also cranial nerves.Functional divisions:- Somatic nervous system- Autonomic nervous system; sympathetic, parasympathetic and enteric divisions

Understanding the nervous device needs expertise of its various parts, so in this write-up you will learn around the nervous mechanism breakdown and all its miscellaneous divisions.

Cells of the nervous system Peripheral nervous systemAutonomic nervous systemClinical notes
+ Sexactly how all

Neurons, or nerve cell, are the primary structural and functional systems of the nervous mechanism. Every neuron is composed of a body (soma) and also a variety of procedures (neurites). The nerve cell body includes the cellular organelles and also is wbelow neural impulses (activity potentials) are produced. The procedures stem from the body, they connect neurons with each other and with other body cells, enabling the flow of neural impulses. There are 2 forms of neural processes that differ in framework and function; 

Axons are lengthy and also conduct impulses amethod from the neuronal body. Dendrites are brief and act to obtain impulses from other neurons, conducting the electrical signal in the direction of the nerve cell body.

Eextremely neuron has actually a solitary axon, while the number of dendrites varies. Based on that number, tbelow are 4 structural kinds of neurons; multipolar, bipolar, pseudounipolar and also unipolar. 

Find Out even more around the neurons in our research unit:

Neurons Explore study unit

Tright here are two types of neurons, called according to whether they send an electrical signal in the direction of or ameans from the CNS;

Afferent neurons (sensory or ascending) conduct impulses from the peripheral tproblems to the CNS. These impulses contain sensory information, describing the tissue"s setting.

The site wbelow an axon connects to another cell to pass the neural impulse is dubbed a synapse. The synapse does not attach to the following cell directly. Instead, the impulse triggers the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters from the extremely finish of an axon. These neurotransmitters bind to the effector cell’s membrane, leading to biochemical occasions to occur within that cell according to the orders sent by the CNS.

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Glial cells


Glial cells, likewise dubbed neuroglia or sindicate glia, are smaller sized non-excitatory cells that act to assistance neurons. They carry out not propagate action potentials. Instead, they myelinate neurons, maintain homeostatic balance, provide structural assistance, protection and also nutrition for neurons throughout the nervous mechanism. 

This collection of attributes is offered for by 4 various forms of glial cells;

Myelinating glia produce the axon-insulating myelin sheath. These are referred to as oligodendrocytes in the CNS and Schwann cells in the PNS. Remember these quickly with the mnemonic "COPS" (Central - Oligodendrocytes; Peripheral - Schwann)Astrocytes (CNS) and also satellite glial cells (PNS) both share the feature of supporting and also protecting neurons. 

Many axons are wrapped by a white insulating substance referred to as the myelin sheath, produced by oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells. Myelin encloses an axon segmentally, leaving unmyelinated gaps between the segments referred to as the nodes of Ranvier. The neural impulses propagate through the Ranvier nodes only, skipping the myelin sheath. This significantly increases the rate of neural impulse propagation. 

White and also gray matter


The white shade of myelinated axons is distinguished from the gray colored neuronal bodies and dendrites. Based on this, nervous tissue is split into white matter and gray matter, both of which has a specific distribution; 

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Nervous mechanism divisions

Nervous mechanism breakdown (diagram)

So nervous tconcern, consisted of of neurons and neuroglia, forms our nervous organs (e.g. the brain, nerves). These organs unite according to their widespread feature, creating the evolutionary perfection that is our nervous device. 

The nervous mechanism (NS) is structurally damaged dvery own right into two divisions; 

Central nervous system (CNS) - is composed of the brain and also spinal cordPeripheral nervous device (PNS) - gathers all neural tworry external the CNS

Functionally, the PNS is even more subdivided into 2 practical divisions; 

Somatic nervous device (SNS) - informally explained as the voluntary systemAutonomic nervous mechanism (ANS) - described as the involuntary mechanism. 

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Although split structurally into central and peripheral parts, the nervous mechanism divisions are actually interassociated via each various other. Axon bundles pass impulses in between the brain and also spinal cord. These bundles within the CNS are dubbed afferent and also efferent neural pathways or tracts. Axons that extfinish from the CNS to connect with peripheral tworries belong to the PNS. Axons bundles within the PNS are called afferent and efferent peripheral nerves.

Central nervous system

The central nervous system (CNS) is composed of the brain and also spinal cord. These are uncovered hoprovided within the skull and also vertebral column respectively.

The brain is made of four parts; cerebrum, diencephalon, cerebellum and brainstem. With Each Other these components procedure the incoming information from peripheral tconcerns and also generate commands; informing the tworries exactly how to respond and feature. These commands tackle the most complicated voluntary and also involuntary huguy body attributes, from breapoint to thinking.

The spinal cord continues from the brainstem. It additionally has actually the capacity to geneprice commands but for involuntary procedures only, i.e. reflexes. However, its primary attribute is to pass indevelopment in between the CNS and periphery. 

Discover more about the CNS anatomy here:

Nervous device Explore study unit

The PNS is composed of 12 pairs of cranial nerves, 31 pairs of spinal nerves and a number of little neuronal clusters throughout the body dubbed ganglia.Peripheral nerves deserve to be sensory (afferent), motor (efferent) or combined (both). Depfinishing on what frameworks they innervate, peripheral nerves can have the complying with modalities;

General - supplying every little thing other than unique senses

Cranial nerves

12 cranial nerves (diagram)

Cranial nerves are peripheral nerves that emerge from the cranial nerve nuclei of the brainstem and spinal cord. They innervate the head and neck. Cranial nerves are numbered one to twelve according to their order of departure via the skull fissures. Namely, they are: olmanufacturing facility nerve (CN I), optic nerve (CN II), oculomotor nerve (CN III), trochlear nerve (CN IV), trigeminal nerve (CN V), abducens nerve (VI), facial nerve (VII), vestibulocochlear nerve (VIII), glossopharyngeal nerve (IX), vagus nerve (X), accessory nerve (XI), and also hypoglossal nerve (XII). These nerves are motor (III, IV, VI, XI, and also XII), sensory (I, II and also VIII) or mixed (V, VII, IX, and X).

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Or learn even more around the cranial nerves in this research unit.

Spinal nerves

Spinal nerves (diagram)

Spinal nervesarise from the segments of the spinal cord. They are numbered according to their certain segment of origin. Hence, the 31 pairs of spinal nerves are split right into 8 cervical pairs, 12 thoracic pairs, 5 lumbar pairs, 5 sacral pairs, and 1 coccygeal spinal nerve. All spinal nerves are combined, containing both sensory and also motor fibers.

Spinal nerves innervate the entire body, via the exception of the head. They execute so by either straight synapsing via their tarobtain organs or by interlacing with each other and also developing plexprovides. There are four significant plexuses that supply the body regions; 

Want to learn more around the spinal nerves and also plexuses? Check out our resources.

Ganglia (sing. ganglion) are clusters of neuronal cell bodies outside of the CNS, definition that they are the PNS equivalents to subcortical nuclei of the CNS. Ganglia can be sensory or visceral motor (autonomic) and also their circulation in the body is plainly defined.

Dorsal root ganglia are clusters of sensory nerve cell bodies situated surrounding to the spinal cord, They are a component of the posterior root of a spinal nerve.

Autonomic ganglia are either sympathetic or parasympathetic. Sympathetic ganglia are found in the thorax and abdomales, grouped right into paravertebral and also prevertebral ganglia. Paravertebral ganglia lie on either side of vertebral column (para- suggests beside), comprising 2 ganglionic chains that extfinish from the base of the skull to the coccyx, referred to as sympathetic trunks. Prevertebral ganglia (collateral ganglia, preaortic ganglia) are uncovered anterior to the vertebral column (pre- means in front of), closer to their taracquire body organ. They are further grouped according to which branch of abdominal aorta they surround; celiac, aorticorenal, remarkable and also inferior mesenteric ganglia.

Parasympathetic ganglia are discovered in the head and pelvis. Ganglia in the head are associated through appropriate cranial nerves and are the ciliary, pterygopalatine, otic and also submandibular ganglia. Pelvic ganglia lie cshed to the reabundant organs consisting of autonomic plexprovides for innervation of pelvic viscera, such as prostatic and uterovaginal plexuses.

Find everything about ganglia essential for your neuroanatomy exam below.

Somatic nervous system

The somatic nervous system is the voluntary component of the peripheral nervous device. It is composed of all the fibers within cranial and also spinal nerves that allow us to perform voluntary body movements (efferent nerves) and feel sensation from the skin, muscles and joints (afferent nerves). Somatic sensation relates to touch, press, vibration, pain, temperature, stretch and place feeling from these three forms of frameworks. 

Sensation from the glands, smooth and also cardiac muscles is conveyed by the autonomic nerves.

Autonomic nervous system

The autonomic nervous mechanism is the involuntary component of the peripheral nervous system. Further divided into the sympathetic (SANS), parasympathetic (PANS) units, it is made up specifically of visceral motor fibers. Nerves from both these divisions innervate all involuntary structures of the body; 

Balanced functioning of these 2 systems plays a critical role in preserving homeostasis, definition that the SANS and PANS carry out not oppose each various other however quite, they complement each other. They execute so by potentiating the task of various organs under assorted circumstances; for example, the PSNS will certainly stimulate greater intestine task after food intake, while SANS will certainly stimulate the heart to rise the output in the time of exercise.

Autonomic nerves synapse within autonomic ganglia before getting to their target organ, thus all of them have actually presynaptic and postsynaptic components. Presynaptic fibers originate from CNS and end by synapsing via neurons of the peripheral autonomic ganglia. Postsynaptic fibers are the axons of ganglion neurons, extending from the ganglion to peripheral tworries. In sympathetic nerves, the presynaptic fiber is short as the ganglia are situated exceptionally close to the spinal cord, while the postsynaptic fiber is much much longer in order to reach the target body organ. In parasympathetic nerves it’s the opposite; the presynaptic fiber is longer than the postsynaptic.

The autonomic nervous mechanism appears to be the just point that deserve to act without your complimentary will certainly. Learn around exactly how it does that below.

Autonomic nervous device Explore examine unit

Sympathetic nervous system

The sympathetic system (SANS) adjusts our bodies for situations of enhanced physical activity. Its actions are commonly described as the “fight-or-flight” response as it stimulates responses such as much faster breapoint, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils and redirection of blood circulation from the skin, kidneys, stomach and intestines to the heart and also muscles, wright here it’s necessary. 

Sympathetic nerve fibers have a thoracolumbar beginning, interpretation that they stem from the T1-L2/L3 spinal cord segments. They synapse through prevertebral and also paravertebral ganglia, from which the postsynaptic fibers travel to supply the tarobtain viscera.

Parasympathetic nervous system

The parasympathetic nervous mechanism (PSNS) adjusts our bodies for power conservation, activating “remainder and also digest” or “feed and also breed” activities. The nerves of the PSNS sluggish down the actions of cardiovascular system, divert blood away from muscles and also boost peristalsis and also gland secretion. 

Parasympathetic fibers have craniosacral outflow, meaning that they originate from the brainstem (cranio-) and also S2-S4 spinal cord segments (-sacral). These fibers travel to thoracic and also abdominal organs, wright here they synapse in ganglia located cshed to or within the target body organ.

Enteric nervous system

Enteric nervous system comprises the SANS and also PANS fibers that manage the activity of the gastrointestinal tract. This mechanism is made of parasympathetic fibers of the vagus nerve (CN X) and also sympathetic fibers of the thoracic splanchnic nerves. These fibers create 2 plexoffers within the wall of the intestinal tube which are responsible for modulating intestinal peristalsis, i.e. propagation of consumed food from esophagus to rectum;

Submucosal plexus (of Meissner) found in the submucosa of the intestines and also contains only parasympathetic fibersMnemonic

You have the right to conveniently remember these two plexsupplies making use of a straightforward mnemonic! " SMP & MAPS", which stands for:


Clinical notes


Vagotomy for gastric ulcers is an old procedure which is offered as surgical administration in patients via reexisting gastric ulcers once there is no effect of diet alterations or antiulcer drugs. The vagus nerve stimulates the secretion of gastric acid. Three forms of vagotomy have the right to be perdeveloped which would certainly substantially diminish this result.

Cranial nerve palsies

The 12 cranial nerves all leave/enter the skull with various foramina. Narrowing of these foramina or any type of constriction along the nerves course results in nerve palsy. For instance, Bell’s palsy affects the facial nerve. On the affected side of the challenge, the patient has:

hemiplegiadry eyesan missing corneal reflex, overloud hearing and affected taste in the anterior 2/3 of the lacking corneal reflexoverloud hearing

influenced taste in the anterior 2/3 of the tongue

Limb nerve lesions

Limb nerve palsies frequently result from fracture, constriction or overusage. For instance, carpal tunnel syndrome affects the median nerve, and occurs once the nerve is compressed within the tunnel. This is as a result of enlargement of the flexor tendons within the tunnel or swelling because of oedema. It regularly occurs in pregnancy and also acromegaly.

Hirschsprung’s disease

This is colonic atony secondary to a faientice of the ganglion cells (explained in the enteric nervous device section) to migrate right into the enteric nervous device. This outcomes in a severely constipated and malnouriburned son, which is in desperate need of corrective surgical treatment.

Spina bifida

Faitempt of normal breakthrough of the meninges and/or vertebral neural arch outcomes in a defect typically in the lumbar spine, wright here component of the spinal cord is covered only by meninges and therefore sits external the body. Both environmental and also genetic factors contribute to its cause. Folate supplements are now offered to all pregnant mothers in early on pregnancy for its prevention.

Parkinson’s disease

Dopamine is crucial for the correct functioning of the basal ganglia, frameworks in the brain that control our cognition and movement. Parkinson’s patients experience destruction of these dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, resulting in:

difficulty initiating movementshuffling gaitmasked faciescog-wheel/lead-pipe rigidity in the limbs



Blumenfeld, H. (2018). Neuroanatomy with clinical situations. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer.Goodfellow, J., Collins, D., Silva, D., Dardis, R., & Nagaraya, S. (2016). Neurology & neurosurgery. New Delhi, India: Jp clinical pub.Patestas, M. A., & Gartner, L. P. (2016). A textbook of neuroanatomy. Hoboken: Wiley BlackwellWaxman, S. G. (2010). Clinical neuroanatomy. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.

Author, evaluation and also layout:


Nervous mechanism (anterior view) - Begoña Rodriguez12 cranial nerves (diagram) - Paul Kim

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