Neuroscience: the Basics

Neuroscience…such an intimidating name for the study of the nervous system. There’s the joke that a brain surgeon goes to a party, and after asking each person what their job is says, “Well, it’s not exactly brain surgery!” After thoroughly angering everyone at the party, he is introduced to another guest who works for the space administration. “Ah, I’m a brain surgeon!” he pompously states. The other man cocks his head and replies, “Well, it’s not exactly rocket science is it?”

The nervous system, in simple terms, is how the body communicates with its many parts. The brain, brain stem, spinal cord, and nerves are the general make-up of this complex system. They all work together to keep the body safe and in working order.

There are many types of sensory nerves and neurons that communicate different types of information with the brain: pain, temperature, light levels, smells, flavors, pressure, proprioception, sounds, and more. All of these help keep the body safe and well-informed in space.

Why are these diverse and well-developed sensory pathways important? Some animals have developed very protective exteriors, like shells and calloused skin. Human, dogs, horses, etc. have not, so we all have developed a very sensitive “warning” system. Pretty nifty, right?

The central nervous system (CNS) is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is comprised of all of the nerves and ganglia (cluster of nerve bodies) that lie out in the periphery. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls the viscera and involuntary function. The ANS can be divided into two categories: sympathetic and parasympathic. These are how the body responds to external stress—either things are “rest and digest” (parasympathetic), or “fight or flight” (sympathetic).

Those are the basics of neuroscience….stay tuned for more on this incredibly interesting body system!!

By Callie Rulli, Skylark Animal Bodywork, LLC

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