Key Points

• The nervous system consists of more than 20 billion neurons linked together in motor and sensory pathways with distinctive anatomic, biochemical, and electrophysiologic properties.

• The general anatomic organization of the nervous system evolves at early developmental stages, preceding that of most other organs and providing a mechanism for neuronal control over subsequent developmental events.

• The lumen of the neural tube expands during development to form a series of four interconnected ventricles that circulate cerebrospinal fluid through the internal regions of the brain.

• The peripheral nervous system is composed of groups of cell bodies organized within two types of ganglia: (1) sensory ganglia, located near the spinal cord or brain stem, and (2) autonomic motor ganglia, some of which are located near the muscle or gland to be innervated.

• Sensory pathways share common organizational motifs, with primary sensory cell bodies in sensory ganglia sending central processes through spinal cord/brain stem tracts to reach primary receiving areas in the cerebral cortex.

• Voluntary motor pathways from the cortex control movement of skeletal muscle; sympathetic and parasympathetic nuclei in the brain stem and spinal cord provide autonomic control of smooth muscles and glands; and short interconnected sensory/motor pathways in the spinal cord and brain stem coordinate subconscious reflexes.

Essential Medical Physiology, Third Edition

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