The nervous system is the system that allows the brain to communicate with every part of the body. The nervous system can be split into two sub-systems, The Central Nervous system (CNS) which has been discussed in a previous article, and The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). The PNS is the nerves that carry information between the CNS to the organs, limbs, and skin. It allows the brain and spinal cord to receive and send information to other areas of the body, allowing us to react to stimuli in our environment.
This system can be further subdivided into two groups:
- The Somatic Nervous System
- The Autonomic Nervous system
The Somatic Nervous System
The somatic system is responsible for facilitating communication between the CNS and the rest of the body. It is made up of sensory receptors that carry information from the CNS, and motor pathways that allow the brain to control movement. These actions allow us to sense and respond to stimuli in our surrounding environment.
The Autonomic Nervous System
The autonomic system is part of the PNS responsible for regulating involuntary body functions such as blood flow, heartbeat, and digestion. It allows these functions to occur without conscious thought (e.g. you do not think about making your heartbeat, it occurs on its own). The autonomic system can be further divided into two antagonistic sub-groups:
- The parasympathetic system – Important in regulation and relaxation of the normal system such as, when you are digesting a meal, your heart rates slow, and muscles are relaxed.
- Sympathetic system – Important in an emergency, also known as your fight or flight system. A good example of this when you get an adrenaline rush, your heart rate quickens, and your senses become more alert to your surrounding environment.
Want to learn more?
Here is a well-explained video from crash course explaining the PNS in 10min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QY9NTVh-Awo
And a video by Khan Academy describing the difference between the somatic and autonomic system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ye28W_OygOw
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