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INTRODUCTION TO THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

The human brain is nothing short of a miracle.

Cornerstone Concepts

  • □ The basic anatomical organization and key elements of the nervous system

  • □ The basic physiological processes involved in nervous system signaling

  • □ An overview of nervous system development and clinical implications

  • □ The basics of motor and sensory functions vital to human movement

  • □ An introduction to common signs and symptoms of neurological damage and various types of lesions

  • □ A review of theories of recovery of function and a comparison of developmental and adult neuroplasticity

The Language of the Nervous System

As with the study of any professional discipline, specific language accompanies that area of study. If one were learning about computers, one would need to first get a grasp on terms such as drives, bites, and memory, specifically as used by computer scientists or technicians. The field of neurorehabilitation is therefore not unique in its need to have its own language. Upon first reading, the student of any of the areas of neurology may be totally overwhelmed by the mere number of syllables in the words. The student of neurorehabilitation can become comfortable with the language through an understanding of the geography or topography of the nervous system, a sense of direction, and of course, a sense of adventure. This sense of perspective lends itself to developing a user-friendly approach to not only learning the neuroscience but, more importantly, to knowing how to apply this knowledge to intervention with patients with neurological disorders.

The language of neuroscience is like a geography roadmap. The name given to the structure often tells the reader the location and often the function of the structure itself. The order of the term often indicates the order of the message transmission. For example, corti-cospinal tract indicates that the origin of the nervous signal is in the cortex and the destination is in the spinal cord. Further thought therefore also tells the student that if these are the origins and destinations of this signal, then the signaling message must be leaving the cortex as opposed to entering it; furthermore, it tells the student that the information being transmitted is an outgoing, or motor, action, or an efferent one. Conversely, spinocerebellar indicates that the origin of the signal is in the spinal cord and the destination is in the cerebellum. The student can then further deduce that the signaling message must be entering a higher level of the central nervous system as opposed to leaving it; furthermore, it can be deduced that the information being transmitted is an input, sensory, or afferent one. As you can see, the language of neuroscience is very descriptive, often providing hints about the location and the function of the named structure or process.

Other terms ...

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