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Relaxation products from Quality Herbals

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The Central Nervous System


Although the brain is exceedingly complicated, an understanding of the basic features of brain development makes it easier to learn and remember the location of the most important structures. With that end in mind.

Development of the Central Nervous System

The CNS begins its existence early in embryonic life as a hollow tube, and it maintains this basic shape even after it is fully developed.
The CNS contains three interconnected chambers. These chambers become ventricles and the tissue that surrounds them becomes the three major parts of the brain, The Forebrain, The Midbrain and The Hindbrain. As development progress the rostral chamber divides into three separate chambers which become the two lateral ventricles and the third ventricle. The region around the lateral ventricles becomes the telencephlon (end brain) and the region around the third ventricle becomes the diencephlon (interbrain). In its final form the chamber inside the midbrain (mesencephalon) becomes narrow, formatting the cerebral aqueduct and two structures develop in the hindbrain: the metencephlon (after brain) and the myelencephlon (marrow brain).

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The Forebrain


The Forebrain surrounds the rostral end of the neural tube. Its two major components are the telencephlon and the diencephlon.

Telencephlon

The telencephlon includes most of the two symmetrical cerebral hemispheres that make up the cerebrum. The cerebral hemispheres Rae covered by the cerebral cortex and contain the limbic system and the basal ganglia. The limbic system and the basal ganglia are primarily in the subcortical regions of the brain _those located deep within it, beneath the cerebral cortex.

Cerebral Cortex 

Cortex means "Bark" and the cerebral cortex surrounds the cerebral hemispheres like the bark of the tree. In humans the cerebral is greatly convoluted. These convolutions consisting of sulci (small grooves), fissures (large grooves) and gyri (bulges between adjacent sulci or fissures) greatly enlarge the surface area of the cortex, compared with a smooth brain of the same size. In fact two-thirds of the surface of the cortex is hidden in the grooves. The total surface area is approximately 2360cm (2.5 ft) and the thickness is approximately 3mm.The cerebral cortex consists mostly of glia and the cell bodies, dendrites and interconnecting axons of neurons. The cerebral cortex has a grayish brown appearance and it is called Gray Matter. Millions of axons run beneath the cerebral cortex and connects its neurons with those located elsewhere in the brain. The large concentration of myelin around these axons gives this tissue an opaque white appearance_____hence the term White Matter.
Different regions of the cerebral cortex perform different functions. Three regions receive information from the sensory organs. The primary visual cortex which receives visual information is located at the back of the brain on the inner surfaces of the cerebral hemispheres____primarily on the upper and lower banks of the Calcarine Fissure.(Calcarine means "spur-shaped"). The primary auditory cortex which receives auditory information is located on the upper surface of a deep fissure in the side of the brain ___ the Lateral Fissure. The primary somatosensory cortex a vertical strip of cortex just caudal to the central sulcus receives information from the body senses. In addition the base of the somatosensory cortex receives information concerning taste.
The region of the cerebral cortex most directly involved in the control of movement is the Primary Motor Cortex locate just in front of the primary somatosensory cortex. Neurons in different parts of the primary motor cortex are connected to muscles in different parts of the body. I like to think of the strip of primary motor cortex as the key board of a piano, with each key controlling a different movement. The regions of primary sensory and motor cortex occupy any a small part of the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is divided into four areas or Lobes named for the bones of the skull that cover them, The Frontal Lobe, Parietal Lobe, Temporal Lobe, and Occipital Lobe. The frontal lobe includes everything in front of the central fissure. The parietal lobe is located on the side of the cerebral hemisphere, just behind the central sulcus, caudal to the frontal lobe. The temporal lobe just forward from the base of the brain, ventral to the frontal and parietal lobes. The occipital lobe lies at the very back of the brain, caudal to the parietal and temporal lobes.

Each primary sensory area of the cerebral cortex sends information to adjacent regions called the Sensory Association Cortex. Circuits of neurons in the sensory association cortex analyze the information received from the primary sensory cortex, perception takes place there and memories are stored there. The regions of the sensory association cortex located closest to the primary sensory areas receive information from only one sensory system. For example the region closest to the primary visual cortex analyzes visual information and stores visual memories. Just as regions of the sensory association cortex are involved in perceiving and remembering, the motor association cortex located just rostral to the primary motor cortex is involved in the planning and execution of movements. The rest of the frontal lobe rostral to the motor association cortex is known as the Prefrontal Cortex.
Although the two cerebral hemispheres cooperate with each other they do not perform identical functions. Some functions are Lateralized __located primarily in one side of the brain.  

Corpus Callosum a large band of axons connects the two Cerebral Hemispheres.

The cerebral cortex that covers most of the surface of the cerebral hemispheres (including the frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal lobes) is called the Neocortex. Another form of cerebral cortex the Limbic Cortex is located around the medial edge of the cerebral hemispheres (limbus means "border"). The Cingulate Gyrius an important region of the limbic cortex.

The fornix is a bundle of axons that connects the hippocampus with other regions of the brain including the Mamillary Bodies, protrusions on the base of the brain that contain pats of the hypothalamus. Only part of the limbic system __the amygdale __is specifically involved in Emotions.
Basal Ganglia
The basal ganglia are collections of nuclei located deep within the forebrain, beneath the anterior portion of the lateral ventricles. Nuclei are groups of  neurons of similar shape. The basal ganglia are involved in the control of movement. For example Parkinson's disease is caused by degeneration of certain neurons located in the midbrain that send axons to the caudate nucleus and the putamen.This disease consists of weakness, tremors, rigidity of the limbs, poor balance and difficulty in initiating movements.

Diencephlon

The second major division of the forebrain the diencephalon is situated between the telencephalon and the mesencephalon; it surrounds the third ventricle. Its two most important structures are the Thalamus  and the Hypothalamus.

Thalamus

The thalamus (from the Greek thalamos "inner chamber") comprises the dorsal part of the diencephalon. It is situated near the middle of the cerebral hemispheres, immediately medial and caudal to the basal ganglia. The thalamus has two lobes connected by a bridge of gray matter called the Massa Intermedia which pierces the middle of the third ventricle. Most neural input to the cerebral cortex is received from the thalamus.
Projection axons are sets of axons that arise from cell bodies located in one region of the brain and synapse on neurons located within another region. The lateral geniculate nucleus receives information from the eye and sends axons to the primary visual cortex and the medial geniculate nucleus receives information from the inner ear and sends axons to the primary auditory cortex. The ventrolateral nucleus receives information from the cerebellum and projects it to the primary motor cortex.

Hypothalamus

The hypothalamus lies at the base of the brain under the thalamus. It is situated on both sides of the lower part of the third ventricle. Although the hypothalamus is a relatively small structure, it is an important one. It controls the automatic nervous system and the endocrine system and organizes behaviors related to survival of the species, such as fighting, fleeing and mating. The hypothalamus is a complex structure containing many nuclei and fiber tracts.
Note that the pituitary gland is attached to the base of the hypothalamus via the pituitary stalk. Just in front of the pituitary stalk is the Optic Chiasm where half of the axons in the optic nerves (from the eyes) cross from one side of the brain to the other. Much of the endocrine system is controlled by hormones produced by cells in the hypothalamus. A special system of blood vessels directly connects the hypothalamus with an important endocrine gland the Anterior Pituitary Gland. Most of the hormones secreted by the anterior pituitary gland control other endocrine glands.
Because of this function the anterior pituitary gland has been called the body's "Master Gland". For example the gonad tropic hormones stimulate the gonads (ovaries and testes) to release male or female sex hormones. These hormones affect cells throughout the body including some in the brain. Two other anterior pituitary hormones -- prolactin and somatotropic harmone (growth harmone) -- do not control other glands but act as the final messenger. The Posterior Pituitary Gland is in many ways an extension of the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus produces the posterior pituitary hormones and directly controls their secretion. These hormones include Oxytocin which stimulates ejection of milk and uterine contractions at the time of childbirth, and Vasopressin which regulates uterine output by the kidneys. There are produced by two different sets of neurons in the hypothalamus whose axons travel down the pituitary stalk and terminate in the posterior pituitary gland.

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The Midbrain


The midbrain (also called the mesencephalon) surrounds the cerebral Aqueduct and consists of two major parts the Tectum and the Tegmentum.

Tectum

The Tectum (roof) is located in the dorsal portion of the midbrain. Its principal structures are the superior colliculi and inferior colliculi, which appears as four bumps on the surface of the brain stem. The brain stem includes the diencephalons, midbrain and hindbrain, and it is so called because it looks just like that ___a stem. The inferior colliculi are a part of auditory system. The superior colliculi are part of the Visual System. In mammals there are involved primarily in visual reflexes and reactions to moving stimuli.
Te Tegmentum (covering) consists of the portion of the midbrain beneath the Tectum. It includes the rostral end of the reticular formation, several nuclei that control eye movements, the periaqueductal gray matter, the Red nucleus, the Substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area.

The Reticular formation is a structure consisting of many individual nuclei. It is also characterized by a diffuse, interconnected network of neurons with complex dendritic and axonal processes. (Indeed reticular means "little net"; early anatomists were struck by the netlike appearance of the reticular formation).

The Periaqueductal Gray Matter is so called because it consists mostly of cell bodies of neurons ("gray matter" as contrasted with the "white matter" of axon bundles) that surrounds cerebral aqueduct as it travels from the third to the fourth ventricle. The periaqueductal gray matter contains neural circuits that control sequences of movements seen in some species-typical behaviors, such as fighting and mating.

The Red Nucleus and Substantia Nigra (black substance) are important components of the Motor System. A bundle of axons that arises from the red nucleus makes up one of the two major Fiber systems that bring motor information from the cerebral cortex and cerebellum to the spinal cord.
I mentioned earlier that Parkinson's disease is caused by Degeneration of certain neurons located in the midbrain that send axons to the Caudate nucleus and the Putamen.
These neurons are located in the substantia nigra.

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The Hindbrain


The hindbrain which surrounds the Fourth Ventricle consists of two major divisions the Metencephalon and the Myelencephalon.

Metencephalon

The Metencephalon consists of the Pones and the Cerebellum.

Cerebellum

The cerebellum (little brain) with its two hemispheres, resembles a miniature version of the cerebrum. It is covered by the cerebellar cortex and has a set of deep cerebellar nuclei.
These nuclei receive Projections from the cerebellar cortex and themselves send Projections out of the cerebellum to other parts of the brain. Each hemisphere of the cerebellum is attached to the dorsal surface of the pones by bundles of axons: the superior, middle, and inferior Cerebellar peduncles (little feet).
Damage to the cerebellum impairs standing, walking, of performance of coordinated movements. The cerebellum integrates this information and modifies the motor outflow, exerting a coordinating and smoothing effect on the movements.
Cerebellar damage results in Jerky, Poorly coordinated, exaggerated movements; extensive cerebellar damage makes it impossible even to stand.

Pones

The pones a large bulge in the brain stem, lies between the mesencephalon and Medulla Oblongata, immediately ventral to the cerebellum. Pones mean "bridge" but it does not really look like one. The pones contain in its core a portion of the reticular formation, including some nuclei that appear to be important in Sleep and Arousal. It also contains a large nucleus that relays information from the cerebral cortex to the cerebellum.

Myelencephalon

The Myelencephalon contains one major structure, the Medulla Oblongata (literally "oblong marrow"), just called the Medulla. This structure is the most caudal portion of the brain stem; its lower border is the rostral end of the Spinal Cord. The medulla contains part of the reticular formation; including nuclei that control vital functions such as Regulation of the Cardio-vascular system, Respiration and Skeletal muscle tonus.

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The Spinal Cord


The spinal cord is a long structure, approximately as thick as our little finger. The principal function of the spinal cord is to distribute motor axons to the effector organs of the body (glands and muscles) and to collect somatosensory information to be passed on to brain. The spinal cord also has a certain degree of autonomy from the brain, various reflexive control circuits are located there.
The spinal cord is protected by the verbal column, which is composed of twenty-four individual vertebrae of the cervical (neck), thoracic (chest), and lumbar (Lower back) regions and the fused vertebrae making up the sacral and coccygeal portions of the column (located in the pelvic region). The spinal cord passes through a hole in each of the vertebrae (the spinal foramens). The spinal cord is only about two thirds as long as the vertebral column; the rest of the space is filled by a mass of spinal roots composing the Caudal Equina (horse a tail).
Early in embryological development the vertebral column and spinal cord are the same length. As development progress the vertebral column grows faster than the spinal cord. To produced the Caudal Block that is sometimes used in pelvic surgery, a local anesthetic can be injected into the CSF contained within the sac of durra mater surrounding the cauda equina. The drug blocks conduction in the axons of the cauda equina which produces temporary anesthesia (and paralysis) of the lower part of the body. Small bundles of axons emerge from each side of the spinal cord in two straight lines along its dorsolateral and ventrolateral surfaces. Groups of these bundles fuse together and become the Thirty-one paired sets of dorsal roots and ventral roots. The dorsal and ventral roots join together as they pass through gaps between the vertebrae and become Spinal Nerves.
The spinal cord consists of white matter and gray matter. In the spinal cord the white matter is on the outside and the gray matter is on the inside. The white matter consists of ascending and descending bundles of myelinated axons, and the gray matter consists mostly of neural cell bodies and short, unmyelinated axons.

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The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)


The brain and spinal cord communicate with the body Via cranial nerves and spinal nerves. These nerves are part of the peripheral nervous system which conveys sensory information to the central nervous system and conveys messages from the central nervous system to the body's muscles and glands.

Spinal Nerves (Somatic Nervous System)

The spinal nerves begin at the junction of the dorsal and ventral roots of the spinal cord. The nerves leave the vertebral column and travel to the muscles or sensory receptors they innervate, branching repeatedly as they go. Branches of spinal nerves often follow blood vessels, especially those branches that innervate skeletal muscles. The cell bodies of all axons that bring sensory information into the brain and spinal cord are located outside the CNS. (The sole exception is the visual system; the Retina of the eye is actually a part of the brain). These incoming axons are referred to as Afferent Axons because they "bear toward" the CNS. The cell bodies that give rise to the axons that bring somatosensory information to the spinal cord reside in the Dorsal Root Ganglia, rounded swellings of the dorsal root. These neurons are of the Unipolar type.
Cell bodies that give rise to the ventral root are located within the gray matter of the spinal cord.

Cranial Nerves

Twelve pairs of cranial nerves leave the ventral surface of the brain. Most of these nerves serve sensory and motor functions of the head and neck region. one of tenth or Vagus Nerve, regulates the functions of organs in the thoracic and abdominal cavities. It is called the vagus (wandering) nerve because its branches wander throughout the thoracic and abdominal cavities. (The word Vagabond has the same root).
Several forms of sensory information are received through cranial nerves. These nerves convey somatosensory information from the head and neck region, information concerning taste from the tongue, auditory information and information concerning balance from the ears, visual information from the eyes, and information concerning smell from nose.

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The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)


The part of the peripheral nervous system which receives sensory information from the sensory organs and that controls movements of the skeletal muscles __ is called the somatic nervous system. The other branch of the peripheral nervous system ---- the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is concerned with regulation of smooth muscles, cardiac muscles and glands. (Autonomic means “self-governing”). Smooth muscles is found in the skin (associated with hair follicles), in blood vessels, in the eyes (controlling pupil size and accommodation of the lens), and in the walls and sphincters of the gut, gallbladder and urinary bladder. Thus the autonomic nervous system is involved in controlling blood pressure, body temperature, digestive functions and other physiological functions. The ANS consists of two anatomically separate systems the Sympathetic division and the Parasympathetic division. With few exceptions organs of the body are innervated by both of these subdivisions and each has a different effect.

Sympathetic Division of the ANS

The sympathetic division is most involved in activities associated with expenditure of energy from reserves that are stored in the body. F.E when an organism is excited, the sympathetic nervous system increase blood flow to skeletal muscles, stimulates the secretion of epinephrine (a harmone that increase heart rate and raises blood sugar level), and causes piloerection __erection of four in mammals that have it and production of “goose bumps” in humans.
The cell bodies of sympathetic motor neurons are located in the gray matter of the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spinal cord (hence the sympathetic nervous system is also known as the Thoracolumbar system). The axons of these neurons exit via the ventral roots. After joining the spinal nerves the axons branch off and pass into spinal sympathetic ganglia (not to be confused with the dorsal root ganglia). The axons that leave the spinal cord through the ventral root are part of the Preganglionic neurons. The neurons with which they form synapses are called Postganglionic neurons.

Parasympathetic Division of the ANS

The parasympathetic division of the ANS supports activities that are involved with increase in the body’s supply of stored energy. These activities include salivation, gastric and intestinal motility, secretion of digestive juices and increased blood flow to the gastrointestinal system.
Cell bodies that give rise to Preganglionic axons in the parasympathetic nervous system are located in two regions: the nuclei of some of the cranial nerves (especially the Vagus nerve) and the gray mater in the sacral region of the spinal cord. T parasympathetic division of the ANS has often been referred to as the Craniosacral system. The terminal buttons of both Preganglionic and postganglionic neurons in the parasympathetic nervous system secrete Acetylcholine.

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