Structures of the Nervous System

This activity will increase your understanding of the different structures of the nervous system and brain. During the Web activity, you will view a variety of structures of the brain and nervous system and label each with the appropriate term. You will use this document to write a description for the terms you used in the activity.

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As you conduct the Structures of the Nervous System activity, follow along with this Word document and fill in the descriptions of those terms you used to label the structures. All of the terms in the activity are listed here, but you only need to provide descriptions for those you used.

Term Description
Central nervous system This system comprises the brain and spinal cord.
Cell body This is the place where metabolism takes place in the neuron and is sometimes referred to as the soma (Pinel, 2007).
Peripheral nervous system This system comprises the somatic nervous system; which include afferent and efferent nerves, the autonomic nervous system; which include both afferent nerves and efferent nerves. The efferent nerves in the autonomic nervous system also include the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. 
Dendrites These structures receive most of the synaptic information from other neurons and are located on the cell body as short processes.
Somatic nervous system This is the part of the peripheral nervous system that collects information from the skin, skeletal muscles, joints, eyes, ears, etc… through the mechanism of afferent nerves.  This system also uses efferent nerve cells to carry sensory signals from the CNS to the skeletal muscles.
Axon Axons are the long protrusions that stem from the cell body of a neuron and carry synaptic information to another neuron.
Buttons These are the ends of the axon, which release chemicals into the synapses. They hold the synaptic vesicles which contain the neurotransmitters. 
Autonomic nervous system This is the branch of the PNS that controls the internal environment of our bodies. This system utilizes both afferent and efferent nerve cells to communicate between the CNS and the internal organs.
Synapses This is the gap between the axon of one cell and the dendrites of another cell. This is the space in which neurotransmitters are utilizes in order to communicate chemical information from one neuron to another. (the synapses can also be between dendrite and dendrite)
Dura mater meninx The layer between the arachnoid meninx and the skull.
Mesencephalon This is the section of the brain below the forebrain (telencephalon and diencephalon) and the hindbrain (metencephalon and myelencephalon). The mesencephalon can be broken down into two primary sections: the tectum and the tegmentum. The tectum can be further broken down into the inferior colliculi (auditory function) and the superior colliculi (visual function). On the other hand, the tegmentum contains many structures such as the reticular formation, tracts of passage, periaqueductal gray, cerebral aqueduct, the substantia nigra, and red nucleus. 
Arachnoid meninx The meninx on the top of the subarachnoid space.
Cerebrospinal fluid This fluid fills the subarachnoid space, the central canal of the spinal cord, and the cerebral ventricles of the brain. Its purpose is to cushion and support the CNS.
Diencephalon This region of the brain contains the thalamus and hypothalamus. The thalamus contains several different pairs of nuclei, which are used to project sensory signals to the sensory cortex. The thalamus is divided into two lobes of which one sits on each side of the brain. The hypothalamus controls the pituitary gland which in turn controls the release of hormones. The hypothalamus also includes the optic chiasm and the mammillary bodies. The optic chiasm is where the left and right optic nerve connects to the brain and the mammillary body is involved with the processing of recognition memory (Mammillary body, 2008). 
Pia mater meninx The layer between the cortex and the subarachnoid space
Cerebral ventricles These are internal chambers which contain fluid and include the two lateral ventricles, the third ventricle and the fourth ventricle.
Telencephalon This is the section of the brain that is most readily identifiable as the brain. This is the large gray matter that is usually associated with images of the brain. This is the area of the brain where we interpret sensory input, initiate voluntary movement, and mediate complex cognitive processes. The outer layer of the telencephalon region is called the cerebral cortex, which includes a convoluted surface in order to increase the size of the cerebral cortex without increases its overall surface area.
Metencephalon This area of the brain also has tracts and reticular formation. In addition, this region contains pons which is a bulge on the brain stem’s ventral surface. The other major section of the metencephalon is the cerebellum which controls movement, to some extent.
Brain stem The brain stem includes the diencephalon, mesencephalon, metencephalon, and myelencephalon, in fact everything but the telencephalon.
Basal ganglia These are a group of subcortical structures which play an important part in voluntary movement. In fact, one of the structures in the basal ganglia, the pathway that connects the straitum to the substantia nigra is involve in parkison’s disease. The basic parts of this region of the brain are the caudate, the putamen, the striatum, and the globus pallidus.
Myelencephalon This is the section of the brain that connects the rest of the brain to the body and therefore is mostly made of tracts. However one particular part of this region, the reticular formation, plays a central role in arousal. 
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Mammillary body. (2008). In Retrieved June 3, 2008, from the Wikipedia Web site:

Pinel, J.J. (2007). Basics of biopsychology. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon

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