Nervous System Facts: Our Body’s Control Center

Krystal DeVille

The nervous system is like your body’s mission control. It oversees everything from thinking to breathing. It’s made up of your brain, spinal cord, and a network of nerves that spread throughout your body.

Even automatic tasks you never think of, like blinking, rely on this system.

Now, let’s get into some interesting facts about our nervous system!

Article Highlights

  • Your nervous system controls voluntary and involuntary actions within your body and processes information from your senses.
  • It consists of the brain, spinal cord, and a complex network of nerves that extend throughout your body.
  • Keeping your nervous system healthy is crucial for overall well-being and can be maintained through regular physical activity and proper nutrition.

The Basic Building Blocks

Your nervous system is super cool, and it’s all thanks to two main types of cells: neurons, the stars of the show that send signals zipping around your body, and glial cells, which are like the helpful best friends that keep everything in tip-top shape.

Neurons: The Nerve Cells

Image Credit: Deposit Photos

Neurons are what you might call the brain’s chatterboxes.

Each neuron is made up of three main parts: the cell body which is the command center, dendrites, which are like tiny antennas that pick up messages from other neurons, and the axon, a long tail that sends messages out.

Think of neurons like little messengers sprinting as fast as they can to make sure your brain gets the memo every time you touch, see, smell, taste, or hear something.

  • Cell Body: Where the neuron’s nucleus lives and where messages are processed.
  • Dendrites: Receive incoming signals.
  • Axon: Carries outgoing electrical signals away from the cell body.

These signals are known as action potentials, and when they reach the end of the axon, they need to jump across a tiny space called a synapse to get to the next neuron.

It’s literally a microscopic game of leapfrog going on inside you!

Glial Cells: The Support System

While neurons get all the glory, glial cells are the unsung heroes, making up about half the cells in your brain. They don’t send signals like the neurons, but they have some pretty big responsibilities.

Glial cells maintain the environment around neurons, providing them with support and nutrition, and sometimes even helping with the repair work.

They’re kind of like the stage crew at a play: they make sure the neuron stars are all set to perform their best.

Divisions of the Nervous System

1. Central Nervous System – The Control Center

The central nervous system (CNS) is your body’s master command center. It’s made up of the brain and the spinal cord.

Your brain does the heavyweight thinking and decision-making, while the spinal cord sends out instructions to the rest of your body through a vast network of nerves.

2. Peripheral Nervous System – The Highway Network

Now, imagine all the messages from your brain traveling on fast roads—that’s your peripheral nervous system (PNS). It has all the cranial and spinal nerves that carry signals to and from the CNS to the rest of your body. It’s why you can wiggle your toes or feel the cold breeze on your skin!

3. Autonomic Nervous System – Involuntary Actions

Part of the PNS, the autonomic nervous system (ANS), takes care of the stuff you don’t even have to think about. It controls your heart beating, digestion, and even how your pupils adjust to light.

It’s split into the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems that keep your body balanced.

4. Somatic Nervous System – Voluntary Actions

Also under the PNS umbrella is the somatic nervous system. This is the part you’re in charge of—it lets you dance, type, and play games. It connects your brain to the muscles you can control when you decide to move parts of your body.

5. Enteric Nervous System – The Digestive Control

Lastly, meet the enteric nervous system (ENS). It’s focused on your belly, handling the complex job of digesting food.

It’s sometimes called the “second brain” because it works independently but also chats with the CNS to keep digestion smooth and comfy.

How Nerves Communicate

Your nerves communicate through a complex network, sending messages from your brain to every part of your body. Let’s see how this amazing process works.

Synapses As Connecting Nerves

Synapses are tiny gaps between neurons, which are the nerve cells in your body. When neurons send messages to each other, they have to cross these gaps.

It’s like passing a note across a ravine — the note is your body’s message, and the ravine is the synapse.

How it works:

  1. Message arrives at the end of a neuron.
  2. Signal triggers the release of chemicals.

Neurotransmitters as Chemical Messengers

Think of neurotransmitters as your body’s postal workers. They carry messages between the neurons in little packages.

When they reach the other side of a synapse, they deliver their message by attaching to the next neuron.

Key facts:

  • There are many neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin.
  • Each has a special role, like adjusting your mood or helping you learn.

Electrochemical Signals as the Language of Neurons

Electrochemical signals are the language that your neurons use to talk.

When a neuron gets excited, it sends an electrical charge down its length. Then it changes the electrical charge into chemical signals to pass the message to the next neuron.

Signal translation:

  • An electric signal rushes down the neuron.
  • The signal is translated into a chemical message at the synapse.

Functions of the Nervous System

1. Sensory Functions

Your body is equipped with sensory nerves that act like tiny messengers. They collect information from your surroundings and send it to your brain.

Think of these nerves as your personal scouts, alerting you to what’s going on around you. They help you feel things, whether it’s the softness of your cat’s fur or the heat from a stove.

2. Motor Functions

When you want to take action, like walking or catching a ball, your motor nerves jump into action. They receive orders from your brain and tell your muscles to move.

Quick Fact: They’re the reason you can run, jump, and dance. These nerves are all about helping you do stuff; they’re like your body’s movement coaches.

3. Autonomic Functions

Your autonomic nerves are the undercover agents of your nervous system. You don’t even notice them because they handle the behind-the-scenes jobs.

They control things you do without thinking about it, like breathing and your heart beating. Even when you’re chilling out, these nerves are hard at work keeping your body running smoothly.

Fun Facts About the Nervous System

Your nervous system is like the body’s command center, controlling everything from your thoughts to the feeling of touching something super cold with your hands.

Here some amazing facts!

  • Think of your brain as your body’s boss. It takes charge of your thoughts, body temperature, and even your conscious actions. Even when you’re just chilling, your brain is super busy processing loads of information.

  • Inside this system are billions of neurons, along with special cells called glial cells. These neurons chat using electric signals that zip back and forth faster than you can say “Wow!”

  • Aferent nerves are the ones that bring messages to the brain (“Hey, that stove is hot!”), while efferent nerves send orders from the brain to other body parts, telling them what to do.

  • Ganglia are like mini-brain stations outside your brain and spinal cord, helping to manage the traffic of nerve signals.

  • Ever wonder how you pull your hand away from a hot stove so fast It’s thanks to your nervous system’s speedy reflexes, which don’t even involve the brain to make a quick decision.

Sensory Organs and the Nervous System

Eyes and Vision

When light hits your retina, a special layer at the back of your eye, it gets converted into electrical signals. These signals are then sent by sensory neurons to your brain to create the images you see.

Key Parts of the EyeFunctions
RetinaCaptures light and starts the visual process.
Optic NerveCarries visual information to the brain.

Ears and Hearing

Your ears are like radar dishes, catching sounds from all around.

These sounds make tiny bones in your ears vibrate, turning them into electrical signals. The sensory neurons in your ears then shoot these signals to your brain, and that’s how you hear your favorite tunes and voices.

What’s Inside Your EarsFunctions
Tiny bonesHelp convert sound waves into vibrations.
Auditory NerveTransmits auditory info to the brain.

Skin and Touch

Every time you touch or feel something, sensory neurons in your skin fire off messages to your brain. This lets you feel textures and temperatures.

Sensory ExperiencesFunctions
Hot/ColdTemperature sensors warn you of extreme temps.
PressureYou feel this when you grab something.

Nose and Smell

Every scent you sniff out triggers special sensory neurons, sending signals to your brain that say “Mmm, cookies!” or “Yuck, garbage!”

How Smell WorksFunctions
Odor MoleculesTravel through the air and into the nasal cavity.
Olfactory BulbProcesses odor information and sends signals to the brain.

Protective Features of the Nervous System

Image Credit: Deposit Photos

Your nervous system, consisting of the brain and spinal cord, is like the command center of your body, and it’s equipped with some pretty cool protective gear to keep it safe.

The Skull and Spinal Column

Your brain has its own hard, bony helmet called the skull that shields it from bumps and knocks. Similarly, your spinal cord is safeguarded by a series of bones stacked one on top of the other, collectively known as the vertebral column or spinal column.

These bones act like armor, guarding against injuries that could interrupt the super-important messages sent to and from your brain.

The Meninges As Protective Membranes

Wrapped around your brain and spinal cord are three layers of protective tissue known as the meninges. These layers are like the padding inside a package, helping to cushion your central nervous system.

The outermost layer is the tough dura mater, the middle is the web-like arachnoid mater, and the delicate inner layer is the pia mater that rests right on top of your brain and spinal cord.

Together, they shield your nervous system from harm and infection.

Myelin Sheat As Insulation for Neurons

Think of the myelin sheath as the protective covering on electrical cords, but for your nerves.

This sheath wraps around the long parts of nerve cells, known as axons, to keep electric signals strong and speedy as they travel along your nerves.

Quick Fact: The myelin sheath not only insulates and protects the axons, but also plays a key role in communication between your brain, spinal cord, and the rest of your body.

Nervous System Disorders and Diseases

Common Disorders

Genetic mutations can lead to disorders like Huntington’s disease, causing progressive brain cell breakdown. This leads to changes in your movement, thinking, and behavior.

Neurodevelopmental disorders often emerge in childhood, impacting milestones and head growth. Muscle coordination, reflexes, and movement can be affected as well.

Infections and Diseases

Infections such as meningitis can be dangerous, causing inflammation in your brain and spinal cord’s protective membranes.

Diseases can be either acute, like a sudden infection, or chronic, such as multiple sclerosis where the immune system attacks nerve coverings, disrupting communication between your brain and body.

Impact of Aging on the Nervous System

As you age, your nervous system can change. It might be due to cell damage accumulation or decreased neuron regeneration speed.

Memory, reflexes, and coordination may be impacted over time. It’s vital to understand that aging-related changes vary widely among individuals and can be managed with medical support.

Keeping the Nervous System Healthy

Keeping the nervous system healthy is vital for overall well-being. Let’s check some key practices to ensure the optimal function of this vital system.

Nutrition and ExercisePreventive CareUnderstanding Reflex Actions
Fueling your brain with the right foods is key. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, are crucial for brain health.Schedule annual physicals to make sure everything’s working as it should be. Blinking protects your eyes, while pulling away from something hot keeps your skin safe.
Staying active can boost your brainpower.Start with reflex tests to check nerve responses.Engaging in activities that stimulate reflexes, such as sports or playing instruments, can improve them.
Regular physical activity keeps your muscles coordinated and your reflexes sharp.It’s your nervous system’s way of keeping you ready for action.
Engage in activities that challenge both your body and brain, like sports or dance.

final thoughts – keep a healthy nervous system with exercise and nutrition habits

As we’ve learned, the nervous system is the ultimate control center of our bodies, managing everything from basic reflexes to complex thoughts.

Nurturing it through healthy habits like exercise and nutrition ensures its smooth functioning, which in turn, maintains our overall well-being. Understanding its basic components helps us appreciate its intricate workings.

Lastly, knowing how it communicates, protects itself, and adapts to changes allows us to grasp the importance of keeping our nervous system in top shape for a fulfilling life.

Author: Krystal DeVille

Title: STEM Education Guide Founder

Expertise: Homeschooling, Kids Education, Parenting

Krystal DeVille is an accomplished journalist and homeschooling mother who created STEM Education Guide, a site that revolutionizes learning in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for children. It makes complex subjects engaging and understandable with innovative, hands-on approaches.

Krystal DeVille

2 thoughts on “Nervous System Facts: Our Body’s Control Center”

    • I think you can start young but just adapt the basics for them. I go over the basics with my youngest (5 years old), but we only go a little in-depth. I’ll come up with some Nervous System activities for younger kids and add them to the article.


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