the nervous system

The Nervous System

What is the Nervous System?

Firstly, the nervous system collects sensory input from the body and the external environment. Its next job is to then processes and interprets the sensory input. And finally, the third main function of the nervous system is to respond appropriately.


Functions of the nervous system


Let’s look at a child for example. Children like to play in the backyard, and one of their favourite things to do in the backyard is to catch insects right? Let’s say the child’s name is Gemma, her eyes scan the backyard. Actually, what her eyes are really doing is taking light input and converting it into electrical signals that are sent to the brain.

Gemma’s eyes are sensory organs or organs which are devoted to gathering sensory input and sending it to the brain. The brain then interprets these signals and converts them into a visual image. This is how Gemma sees the insect land on a nearby flower. Not only does Gemma’s brain give her a visual image, but it also categorizes what she sees, so she immediately thinks, ‘There’s a butterfly landing on a flower.’


The workhorses of the nervous system


The workhorses of the nervous system that do all of these things that allow Gemma to see the butterfly and recognize it is called neurons. Neurons are specialized cells of the nervous system that transmit signals throughout the body.

So, now that Gemma’s neurons have gathered information from the environment. It then relays this information to her brain. Processed the information into a visual and categorized what she sees. Gemma now has a decision to make. What does she do with this information? Does she ignore it and continue scanning the backyard, or does she make use of this information and act on it?

Not surprisingly, Gemma decides she wants to catch the butterfly, so her brain sends signals to the muscles to slowly move towards the butterfly. The neurons that transmit this signal to the muscles are called motor neurons. Motor neurons are not just limited to sending signals to muscles, they can also send signals to glands within our body. These glands now stimulate or inhibit secretion of various substances that then carry out or regulate many body functions.

In saying that back to Gemma, who is just about to snatch the butterfly when the neighbour’s dog barked and startled her. The unexpected loud noise triggered a reflex reaction, an automatic, involuntary reaction to an unexpected stimulus. Gemma jumped backwards before she knew what was happening. She was scared. Her brain remembered that the dog next door was big and mean, so it categorized the dog as a threat and told Gemma’s legs to run away as fast as they could.


Why do we need it to function well?


Lastly, the Sensory neurons are nerve cells within the nervous system. They are responsible for converting external stimuli from the environment into internal electrical impulses. For example, the sensory neurons responded to Gemma being scared and running away. This then allowed the tactile stimuli to activate motor neurons in order to achieve muscle contraction for her to move.


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Nicole McDermott

I am passionate about working with people on a holistic level to balance hormones, improve mood, manage weight all whilst educating people on the benefits of a balanced whole foods diet. Follow more great advice from Nic here.