You are on page 1of 13

Anatomy and Physiology Nervous System The nervous system is the bodys control center and communication network.

It directs the functions of the bodys organs and system. It allows us to interpret what is occurring in our external environment and helps us to decide how to react to any environmental change or stimulus by causing muscular contractions. It shares in the maintenance of homeostasis (the internal environment of our bodies) with the endocrine system by controlling the master endocrine gland (the pituitary) through the hypothalamus of the brain. Neurons

Neurons are electrically excitable cells composed, in general, of one or more dendrites, a single soma, a single axon and one or more axon terminals. The dendrite is one of the two types of synapses, the other being the axon terminal boutons. Dendrites form protrusions in response to the axon terminal boutons. These protrusions, or spines, are designed to capture the neurotransmitters released by the presynaptic neuron. They have a high concentration of ligand activated channels. It is, therefore, here where synapses from two neurons communicate with one another. These spines have a thin neck connecting a bulbous protrusion to the main dendrite. This ensures that changes occurring inside the spine are less likely to affect the

neighbouring spines. The dendritic spine can, therefore, with rare exception (see LTP), act as an independent unit. The dendrites then connect onto the soma. The soma houses the nucleus, which acts as the regulator for the neuron. Unlike the spines, the surface of the soma is populated by voltage activated ion channels. These channels help transmit the signals generated by the dendrites. Emerging out from the soma is the axon hillock. This region is characterized by having an incredibly high concentration of voltage-activated sodium channels. In general, it is considered to be the spike initiation zone for action potentials. [8] Multiple signals generated at the spines, and transmitted by the soma all converge here. Immediately after the axon hillock is the axon. This is a thin tubular protrusion traveling away from the soma. The axon is insulated by a myelin sheath. Myelin is composed of either Schwann cells (in the peripheral nervous system) oroligodendrocytes (in the central nervous system), types of glial cells. Although glial cells are not involved with the transmission of electrical signals, they communicate and provide important biochemical support to neurons. [9] To be specific, myelin wraps multiple times around the axonal segment, forming a thick fatty layer that prevents ions from entering or escaping the axon. This insulation prevents significant signal decay as well as ensuring faster signal speed. This insulation, however, has the restriction that no channels can be present on the surface of the axon. There are, therefore, regularly spaced patches of membrane, which have no insulation. These nodes of ranvier can be considered to be 'mini axon hillocks', as their purpose is to boost the signal in order to prevent significant signal decay. At the furthest end, the axon loses its insulation and begins to branch into several axon terminals. These axon terminals then end in the form the second class of synapses, axon terminal buttons. These buttons have voltage-activated calcium channels, which come into play when signaling other neurons. Nervous System Pathways Some specialized neurons in the cerebral cortex transmit information via pathways throughout the CNS. A pathway is a bundle of these communicating neurons. In the CNS, a neuronal pathway (a bundles neurons may be called a tract fasciculus or lemniscus.

Action Potential An action potential is a short-lasting event in which the electrical membrane potential of a cell rapidly rises and falls, following a consistent trajectory. In neurons, they play a central role in cell-to-cell communication. In other types of cells, their main function is to activate

intracellular processes. In muscle cells, for example, an action potential is the first step in the chain of events leading to contraction. In beta cells of the pancreas, they provoke release of insulin.[1] Action potentials in neurons are also known as "nerve impulses" or "spikes", and the temporal sequence of action potentials generated by a neuron is called its "spike train". A neuron that emits an action potential is often said to "fire". Action potentials are generated by special types of voltage-gated ion

channels embedded in a cell's plasma membrane. These channels are shut when the membrane potential is near the resting potential of the cell, but they rapidly begin to open if the membrane potential increases to a precisely defined threshold value. When the channels open, they allow an inward flow of sodium ions, which changes the electrochemical gradient, which in turn produces a further rise in the membrane potential. This then causes more channels to open, producing a greater electric current, and so on. The process proceeds explosively until all of the available ion channels are open, resulting in a large upswing in the membrane potential. The rapid influx of sodium ions causes the polarity of the plasma membrane to reverse, and the ion channels then rapidly inactivate. As the sodium channels close, sodium ions can no longer enter the neuron, and they are actively transported out of the plasma

membrane. Potassium channels are then activated, and there is an outward current of potassium ions, returning the electrochemical gradient to the resting state. After an action potential has occurred, there is a transient negative shift, called the afterhyperpolarization or refractory period, due to additional potassium currents. This is the mechanism that prevents an action potential from traveling back the way it just came.

Synaptic Transmission

Step 1. The neurotransmitter is manufactured by the neuron and stored in vesicles at the axon terminal.

Step 2. When the action potential reaches the axon terminal, it causes the vesicles to release the neurotransmitter molecules into the synaptic cleft. Step 3. The neurotransmitter diffuses across the cleft and binds to receptors on the postsynaptic cell. Step 4. The activated receptors cause changes in the activity of the post-synaptic neuron.

Step 5. The neurotransmitter molecules are released from the receptors and diffuse back into the synaptic cleft.

Step 6. The Neurotransmitter is re-absorbed by the post synaptic neuron. This process is known as Reuptake.

Central Nervous System

The central nervous system (CNS) which is the control center for the whole system. It is composed of the brain and the spinal cord. The brain can be further divided into the cerebrum, the brainstem, and the cerebrum. The brain weighs only approximately 3 to 4 pounds but contains 100 billion neurons, roughly the same as the number of stars in the milky way galaxy.


Cerebrum The cerebrum is divided into two cerebrum hemispheres and constitutes the bulk of the nervous system. The hemispheres are composed of a multitude of nervous system pathways, the cerebral cortex, certain limbic structures, the basal ganglia, and the diencephalic.

Cerebral cortex The cerebral cortex is a sheet of neural tissue that is outermost to the cerebrum of the mammalian brain. It plays a key role in memory,attention,

perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness. It is constituted of up to six horizontal layers, each of which has a different composition in terms of neurons and connectivity. The human cerebral cortex is 24 mm (0.080.16 inches) thick. The cerebral cortex of the cerebrum is divided into four lobes: the frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes.

Frontal lobe The frontal lobe is an area in the brain of humans and other mammals, located at the front of each cerebral hemisphere and positioned anterior to (in front of) the parietal lobe and superior and anterior to the temporal lobes. It is separated from the parietal lobe by a space between tissues called the central sulcus, and from the temporal lobe by a deep fold called the lateral (Sylvian) sulcus. The precentral gyrus, forming the posterior border of the frontal lobe, contains the primary motor cortex, which controls voluntary movements of specific body parts. The frontal lobe contains most of the dopamine-sensitive neurons in the cerebral cortex. The dopamine system is associated with reward, attention, short-term memory tasks, planning, and

motivation. Dopamine tends to limit and select sensory information arriving from the thalamus to the fore-brain. A report from the National Institute of Mental Health says a gene variant that reduces dopamine activity in the prefrontal cortex is related to poorer performance and inefficient functioning of that brain region during working memory tasks, and to slightly increased risk for schizophrenia. Temporal lobe The temporal lobe is a region of the cerebral cortex that is located beneath the Sylvian fissure on both cerebral hemispheres of the mammalian brain. The temporal lobe is involved in auditory perception and is home to the primary auditory cortex. It is also important for the processing of semantics in both speech and vision. The temporal lobe contains the hippocampus and plays a key role in the formation of long-term memory. Parietal lobe Parietal lobes are posterior to the central sulcus. These primarily sensory association areas contain a sensory strip (the postcentral gyrus) that roughly corresponds to the homunculus of the motor strip. The sensory areas interpret sensations. Caudal to this area the association areas of the parietal lobes.The parietal lobe plays important roles in integrating sensory information from various parts of the body, knowledge of numbers and their relations, and in the manipulation of objects. Portions of the parietal lobe are involved with visuospatial processing. Although multisensory in nature, the posterior parietal cortex is often referred to by vision scientists as the dorsal stream of vision (as opposed to the ventral stream in the temporal lobe). This dorsal stream has been called both the 'where' stream (as in spatial vision) and the 'how' stream (as in vision for action). Occipital lobe Occipital lobes are divided into visual receptive and visual association areas. In contrast to temporal lobe lesions, which can produce various types of visual aphasis, lesions in the occipital lobes visual association cortex result in loss of vision (blindness) from the contra lateral visual field; that is, total damage of the left side of the occipital visual association cortex results in loss of vision from the right visual field. The primary function of the occipital lobes is vision.

Limbic System The limbic lobe forms the central core of the limbic system and is composed of the septal area, cingulated gyrus, and parahippocamal gyrus. The limbic lobe is built on the olfactory system. The limbic system is a broad term, referring to the limbic lobe and the structure that function with it: the frontal cortex, hypothalamus, amygdale, hippocampus, numerous tracts, brainstem nuclei, and the autonomic system. The way in which emotions and motivation are generated in the limbic system remain unclear. No specific anatomic areas exist that can be correlated for emotions such as love, hate, and dislike. Each emotion is likely diffusely linked to different limbic and nonlimbic areas. The limbic system control the four Fs (feeding, fighting, fleeing, and fornicating)-memory, sense of pleasure, emotions, and motivation. Limbic Olfactory Function The first pathway discussed is the olfactory pathway, which is involved with odor detection, feeding, and feeling pleasure. This chapter does not discuss odor detection beyond its relationship to limbic functions. Understanding how significant smell relates to emotion is important. Large department stores have recognized for years that having a perfume display sells more than perfume. Olfactory information is picked up by receptor neurons in the nasal cavity and transmitted to the olfactory bulbs, which are located directly under the surface of the frontal lobes. The Olfactory bulbs project axons that synapse in the parahippocampal gyrus and in a subdivision of the amygdale. Brainstem The brainstem is the posterior part of the brain, adjoining and structurally continuous with the spinal cord. The brain stem provides the main motor and sensory innervations to the face and neck via the cranial nerves. Though small, this is an extremely important part of the brain as the nerve connections of the motor and sensory systems from the main part of the brain to the rest of the body pass through the brain stem. The brain stem also plays an important role in the regulation of cardiac and respiratory function. It also regulates the central nervous system, and is pivotal in maintaining consciousness and regulating the sleep cycle.

The Dopamine The Dopamine plays a major role in the brain system that is responsible for rewarddriven learning. Every type of reward that has been studied increases the level of dopamine transmission in the brain, and a variety of highly addictive drugs, including stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, act directly on the dopamine system. There is evidence that people with extraverted (reward-seeking) personality types tend to show higher levels of dopamine activity than people with introverted personalities. Several important diseases of the nervous system are associated with dysfunctions of the dopamine system. Parkinson's disease, an age-related degenerative condition causing tremor and motor impairment, is caused by loss of dopamine-secreting neurons in the substantia nigra . Schizophrenia is often associated with

elevated levels of dopamine activity in the prefrontal cortex. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is also believed to be associated with decreased dopamine activity. Dopamine is available as an intravenous medication acting on the sympathetic nervous system, producing effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. However, because dopamine cannot cross the bloodbrain barrier, dopamine given as a drug does not directly affect the central nervous system. To increase the amount of dopamine in the brains of patients with diseases such as Parkinson's disease and dopa-responsive dystonia, L-DOPA (the precursor of dopamine) is often given because it crosses the blood-brain barrier relatively easily. Dopamine is the primary neuroendocrine inhibitor of the secretion of prolactin from the anterior pituitary gland. Dopamine produced by neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus is secreted into the hypothalamo-hypophysial blood vessels of the median eminence, which supply the pituitary gland. The lactotrope cells that produce prolactin, in the absence of dopamine, secrete prolactin continuously; dopamine inhibits this secretion. Thus, in the context of regulating prolactin secretion, dopamine is occasionally called prolactin-inhibiting factor (PIF), prolactin-inhibiting hormone (PIH), or prolactostatin. Dopamine is commonly associated with the pleasure system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate a person proactively to perform certain activities. Dopamine is released (particularly in areas such as the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex) by naturally rewarding experiences such as food, sex, drugs, and neutral stimuli that become associated with them. Recent studies indicate that aggression may also stimulate the release of dopamine in this way. This theory is often discussed in terms of drugs such as cocaine, nicotine, and amphetamines, which directly or indirectly lead to an increase of dopamine in the mesolimbic reward pathway of the brain, and in relation to neurobiological theories of chemical addiction (not to be confused with psychological dependence), arguing that this dopamine pathway is pathologically altered in addicted persons. The Serotonin The Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) is a neurotransmitter in the brain that has an enormous influence over many brain functions. It is synthesized, from the amino acid Ltryptophan, in brain neurons and stored in vesicles. Serotonin is found in three main areas of the body: the intestinal wall; large constricted blood vessels; and the central nervous system.

The most widely studied effects have been those on the central nervous system. The functions of serotonin are numerous and appear to involve control of appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, mood, behavior (including sexual and hallucinogenic behavior), cardiovascular function, muscle contraction, endocrine regulation, and depression . The activity of serotonin arises in the brainstem from clusters of neurons known as the raphe nucleus. From the brain, serotonin neurons extend to virtually all parts of the central nervous system making the branching of the serotonin network the most expansive neurochemical system in the brain. The importance of this network becomes apparent when considering each serotonin neuron exerts an influence over as many as 500,000 target neurons. Due to the widespread distribution of serotonin in the nervous system, it is not surprising that this neurotransmitter can be linked to many types of behavior. Of the chemical neurotransmitter substances, serotonin is perhaps the most implicated in the treatment of various disorders, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, stroke, obesity, pain, hypertension, vascular disorders, migraine, and nausea. A major factor in the understanding of the role of 5-HT in these disorders is the recent rapid advance made in understanding the physiological role of various serotonin receptor subtypes. There are at least four populations of receptors for serotonin: 5-HT1, 5-HT2, 5-HT3, and 5-HT4. The physiological function of each receptor subtype has not been established and is currently the subject of intensive investigation.