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ANATOMY OF THE SPINAL CORD

AND REFLEXES
PREPARED BY HUGH POTTER, Ph.D
BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT
UNION COUNTY COLLEGE

IMAGES USED WITH THE PERMISSION OF ADAM, INC.

ANTERIOR VIEW OF THE SPINAL CORD
CERVICAL CORD
(8 nerves)
The spinal cord begins at the base
of the medulla oblongata and
extends to about the 2nd lumbar
vertebra. The cord is divided into
four regions each of which has
branches called spinal nerves.

THORACIC CORD
(12 nerves)

LUMBAR CORD
(5 nerves)
SACRAL CORD
(5 nerves)

SAGITAL SECTION OF LOWER SPINE The inferior. terminal portion of the spinal cord is at the level of the 2nd lumbar vertebra. Branches from the lumbar region pass downward from the cone-shaped tip (conus medullaris) of the spinal cord forming the cauda equina (horse’s tail). Cauda equina .

SPINAL CORD MENINGES .

delicate middle zone. It is closely adherent to the surface of the spinal cord. Below this layer is the subarachnoid space filled with cerebrospinal fluid. 1. moist membranes surrounding the spinal cord. 2. 3. Arachnoid layer – a fibrous.The Meninges of the Spinal Cord The Meninges are tough. Dura mater – The outermost membrane surrounding the spinal cord. . Pia mater – innermost of the meningeal layers. it consists of a thin Meningeal layer.

SPINAL CORD CROSS SECTION A .gray matter C .white matter D .ventral root of spinal nerve B .spinal nerve D E B C A .dorsal root of spinal nerve E .

Spinal Nerve and its Branches .

CERVICAL PLEXUS The cervical plexus is formed by branches of cervical nerves C1 to C4 arising from the cervical region of the spinal cord. The phrenic nerve which stimulates the diaphragm to contract arises from the cervical plexus .

An accident that pulls the arm may damage the brachial plexus. It is responsible for innervation of the skin and muscles of the entire upper limb and all but two muscles of the shoulder girdle. the brachial plexus can be damaged during birth if the delivery requires pulling the arm. In newborns. BRACHIAL PLEXUS . C8 and T1.The brachial plexus is formed from spinal nerves C5. C6. C7.

. the pubic area and the external genitalia in males and females. hip and thigh. The plexus also is responsible for sensation in the skin of the thighs. Branches of this plexus stimulate muscles of the back.LUMBAR PLEXUS Spinal nerves branching from the lumbar region of the cord form the lumbar plexus.

.LUMBOSACRAL SPINAL CORD POSTERIOR VIEW The area within the rectangle shows the lower portion of the spinal cord. The branches leaving the sacral region pass through the sacral foramina forming the sacral plexus.

S2. Because the lumbar and sacral plexuses are interconnected.SACRAL PLEXUS Spinal nerves branching from the lumbar (L4 and L5) and sacral (S1. . Nerves branching from this plexus innervate the limb and pelvic area. they are sometimes referred to as the lumbosacral plexus. S3 and S4) region of the cord form the sacral plexus.

It passes into the thigh and lower leg supplying innervation of sensation and movement for the entire lower limb. it is important to inject into the gluteus medius muscle to avoid damage to this large nerve. When giving a gluteal intramuscular injection. . S2 and S3) regions of the spinal cord.SCIATIC NERVE The sciatic nerve (astrerisk) is formed from spinal nerves arising from the lumbar (L4 and L5) and sacral (S1.

2. The axons of the sensory neurons then enter the spinal cord and synapse with interneurons within the gray matter of the spinal cord. 3. and conduct information to the muscles .The Components of the Reflex Arc 1. The cell bodies of these sensory neurons are located in a dorsal-root ganglion that lies just outside the spinal cord near its dorsal side. The interneurons in turn synapse with motor neurons. the axons of which exit the cord ventrally via the ventral root. The sensory neurons enter the dorsal part of the spinal cord cell via the dorsal root of the spinal nerve.

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The incoming messages will synapse on motor neurons in the gray matter. This type of reflex is called monosynaptic because the sensory neuron synapses directly on a motor neuron in the gray matter of the spinal cord. A stretch receptor in the tendon will send afferent impulses to the spinal cord.MONOSYNAPTIC REFLEX The patellar reflex is produced by striking the patellar tendon (arrow) with the reflex hammer. . These messages will travel out to the quadriceps muscle group (asterisk) producing the characteristic knee jerk.

Blue .Major Spinal Nerve Tracts Motor tracts – Red Sensory tracts .

or pyramidal tracts. from the cerebral cortex to the spinal cord. The pyramidal tracts descend directly without synaptic interruption. Pyramidal Tracts Corticobulbar tract Corticospinal tracts Extra-Pyramidal tracts Vestibulospinal tracts Tectospinal tracts .Descending Nerve Tracts There are two major groups of descending tracts from the brain: the corticospinal. and the extrapyramidal tracts.

These nerve tracts decussate. Destination is motor nuclei of cranial nerves in the brain stem. 2. 3. as well as some muscles of the neck and throat. Neurons originate in primary motor cortex of the cerebrum. jaw and face. Provide voluntary motor control of skeletal muscles throughout the body. Corticospinal tracts 1.Descending tracts (Motor) Pyramidal Tracts – Originate from the pyramidal cells of the primary motor cortex. Corticobulbar tract 1. 2. Neurons originate in primary motor cortex of the cerebrum. . Provide conscious control over skeletal muscles of the eye. 3. Destination of the tracts is the motor neurons of the ventral horns of gray matter in the spinal cord.

Tectospinal tracts – Cross over in the brain stem 1. The tract carries motor commands that alter muscle tone and position the head. sudden movements or loud noises. neck and upper limbs in response to bright lights. 2. Neurons of these tracts direct reflexive changes in the position of the head. diencephalon and brain stem not from pyramidal cells (extrapyramidal). Neurons originate in the superior and inferior colliculi in the tectum of the midbrain. Neurons respond to information from the vestibulocochlear nerve about the position and movements of the head. The colliculi receive visual (superior) and auditory (inferior) sensations. neck and limbs to maintain balance and posture. 2.Extra-Pyramidal tracts – Originate from centers in the cerebrum. . Vestibulospinal tracts – do not decussate 1.

This decussation occurs in the medulla oblongata for sensory modalities.Ascending Nerve Tracts The ascending tracts convey sensory information from cutaneous receptors. Most of the sensory information that originates in the right side of the body crosses over (decusses) and eventually reach the region on the left side of the brain. and visceral receptors. which analyses this information. the information arising in the left side of the body is ultimately analysed by the right side of the brain. Ascending Tracts Posterior Column Pathway Spinothalamic Pathway Spinocerebellar Pathway . Similarly. proprioceptors (muscle and joint senses). or in the spinal cord for other modalities of sensation.

. pressure. The destination of these messages is the cerebellum. stretch receptors in tendons and joint capsules. Spinothalamic Pathway – Cross in the spinal cord Carries messages of crude touch. pain and temperature from peripheral receptors to the sensory cortex of the cerebral hemispheres via the thalamus. specifically the cerebellar cortex. The overall sensory information is proprioception.Ascending Tracts – Three major sensory pathways Posterior Column Pathway – Cross in the medulla oblongata Carries sensations of fine touch. pressure and proprioception from peripheral receptors to the sensory cortex of the cerebral hemispheres via the thalamus. 2. Spinocerebellar Pathway 1. Sensory neurons arise in muscle spindles.

constriction and dilation of blood vessels 3. .Autonomic Nervous System The nervous system is divided into the Somatic Nervous System which controls organs under voluntary control (mainly muscles) and the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which regulates individual organ function and homeostasis. Its effects include: 1. The ANS is predominantly an efferent (motor) system transmitting impulses from the Central Nervous System (CNS) to peripheral organ systems. contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle in various organs 4. control of heart rate and force of heart contraction 2. and for the most part is not subject to voluntary control. the secretions from exocrine and endocrine glands. It is also known as the visceral or automatic system. visual accommodation and pupillary size 5.

Most organs are innervated by fibers from both divisions of the ANS. the vagus nerve (PNS) slows the heart. Both of these systems consist of myelinated preganglionic fibers which make synaptic connections with unmyelinated postganglionic fibers. whilst the sympathetic nerves increase its rate and strength of contraction. and the influence is usually opposing. In general. These synapses usually occur in clusters called ganglia. on the basis of anatomical and functional differences. the responses of the parasympathetic system are characterized as “Rest and Digest” and those of the Sympathetic are called “ Fight or Flight” .The Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Systems The ANS is divided into two separate divisions called the Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Systems. and it is these which then innervate the effector organ. For example.

Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Responses Structure Sympathetic Stimulation Parasympathetic Stimulation Iris (eye muscle) Pupil dilation Pupil constriction Salivary Glands Saliva production reduced Saliva production increased Heart Heart rate and force increased Heart rate and force decreased Lung Bronchial muscle relaxed Bronchial muscle contracted Stomach Peristalsis reduced Gastric juice secreted. motility increased Kidney Decreased urine secretion Bladder Wall relaxed Sphincter closed Increased urine secretion Wall contracted Sphincter relaxed .

For this reason. . and synapse in ganglia close to or within that organ. third and fourth sacral segments of the spinal cord. the parasympathetic is also referred to as CranioSacral. giving rise to postganglionic fibers which then innervate the relevant tissue.Parasympathetic Nervous System Parasympathetic nerve messages arise from the cell bodies of the motor nuclei in the brain stem and from the second. Preganglionic fibers run almost to the organ which is innervated.

The preganglionic fibres travel a short distance in the mixed spinal nerve.Sympathetic Nervous System The cell bodies of the sympathetic preganglionic fibres are in the lateral horns of spinal segments T1 to L2. They are called the sympathetic ganglionic chains. For this reason. . and then branch off as white rami (myelinated) to enter the sympathetic ganglia. The sympathetic ganglia are mainly arranged in two chains which lie near the vertebral bodies and extend from the cervical to the sacral region. the sympathetic nervous system is also called Thoraco-Lumbar.

.SYMPATHETIC CHAIN OF GANGLIA Running parallel on either side of the vertebral column is a chain of interconnected ganglia (arrow) that serve as relay stations for efferent sympathetic impulses that travel out to peripheral regions.

AUTONOMIC REFLEX The PUPILLARY REFLEX The pupillary reflex involves a change in the diameter of the pupil of the eye due to the interaction of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nerves pass through cranial nerve III. The SNS will produce dilation of the pupil. This response is usually elicited by shining a light into the eye stimulating the optic nerve (arrow). . the oculomotor nerve. The PNS will constrict the pupil.