Unity

As an epithelium, all parts of the nervous system are physically coherent and functionally linked by nerves, tracts, and specified cell-to-cell contacts. Potentially, each part communicates with all others. Some connections are direct (a two-neuron, monosynaptic reflex), whereas others involve myriad interposed neurons. Though complex, neural circuits offer total connectivity: fast, body-wide communication. Nerve impulses may originate in sensory nerve endings in any part of the body or anywhere in the system itself. Responsive activity complements endogenous activity, which is always evident in the human nervous system with its startling capacity to generate patterns of behavior and initiate events on its own. Sensory impulses, triggered by PNS primary sensory neurons, race over its nerves to the CNS, there diverging to clusters of secondary sensory neurons. Analysis begins. New impulses pass to central neurons on which related messages converge, which is a recombinant process providing integration. Other messages on stimulus modality, intensity, location, affective quality, body position and movement, visceral activity, fatigue, experience, and expectations are all integrated. Huge numbers of impulses are generated; untold numbers of synapses are activated. Almost instantly, nerve impulses that will elicit bodily responses stream out of the CNS to muscles and glands.

Exceptions are instructive. The local cutaneous response to irritating stimuli (raking a blunt probe over the skin) has three components: local reddening (vasodilation from injury), wheal formation (transient edema from tissue fluid extrusion), and ensuing widespread vasodilation (flare) with lowered threshold and increased sensitivity to pain (pinprick). The flare and hyperalgesia represent an axon reflex. Nociceptive (pain) nerve endings are activated by substances released by injured tissue cells, and nerve impulses are conducted a short way centrally along nociceptive axons and then distally over branches of these axons to nearby arterioles, causing them to dilate. Advanced or primitive (it is sluggish, starting in about 20 sec and developing fully in around 3 min), this reflex involves local nerve fibers only, not the CNS.

The ''triple response'' illustrates three concepts. Pain receptors sense chemical, as well as mechanical and thermal, stimuli. Their sensitivity is increased by substances accumulating in the damaged area. Their response includes a neuroeffector component. They release substances (peptides) that initiate further events, providing further protection and favoring local tissue repair.

Studies in invertebrate neural systems show extensive local control of visceral function. Exceptions to central control are also found in the mammalian ANS. Near-normal interaction of bowel segments persists in the absence of CNS innervation. Sensory fibers from the gut exert feedback in intramural autonomic ganglia on visceral motor neurons regulating smooth muscle in the intestinal wall. The nervous system has pattern generators, both central and peripheral: systems with cellular, synaptic, and network properties (cyclic firing rhythms, reciprocal inhibition of cell pairs, leader and follower cells) that provide automated mechanisms for generating rhythmic movements (breathing, walking) or periodic activities (sleeping, waking). Regulated by neural (sensory feedback, volitional override) or neuroendocrine influences, pattern generators are pithy examples of neural endogenous activity.

Breaking Bulimia

Breaking Bulimia

We have all been there: turning to the refrigerator if feeling lonely or bored or indulging in seconds or thirds if strained. But if you suffer from bulimia, the from time to time urge to overeat is more like an obsession.

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