Retraining CNS circuits and plasticity How does the spinal cord work? To understand what can happen as the result of a spinal cord injuryit is important to understand the anatomy of the spinal cord and its normal functions.
The spinal cord is a tight bundle of neural cells neurons and glia and nerve pathways axons that extend from the base of the brain to the lower back. It is the primary information highway that receives sensory information from the skinjoints, internal organs, and muscles of the trunk, arms, and legs, which is then relayed upward to the brain.
It also carries messages downward from the brain to other body systems.
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Millions of nerve cells situated in the spinal cord itself also coordinate complex patterns of movements such as rhythmic breathing and walking.
Together, the spinal cord and brain make up the central nervous system CNSwhich controls most functions of the body. Spinal cord anatomy The spinal cord is made up of neurons, glia, and blood vessels.
The neurons and their dendrites branching projections that receive input from axons of other neurons reside in an H-shaped or butterfly-shaped region called gray matter. The gray matter of the cord contains lower motor neurons, which branch out from the cord to muscles, internal organs, and tissue in other parts of the body and transmit information commands to start and stop muscle movement that is under voluntary control.
Upper motor neurons are located in the brain and send their long processes axons to the spinal cord neurons. Other types of nerve cells found in dense clumps of cells that sit just outside the spinal cord called sensory ganglia relay information such as temperature, touch, pain, vibration, and joint position back to the brain. The axons carry signals up and down the spinal cord and to the rest of the body.
Thousands of axons are bundled into pairs of spinal nerves that link the spinal cord to the muscles and the rest of the body. Read More