Guide Neuroscience Review: The Spinal Cord (Quick Review Notes)

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The following are brief descriptions of the CNS glial cell types:. Astrocytes: these cells have numerous projections and anchor neurons to their blood supply.

Central Nervous System: Crash Course A&P #11

They also regulate the local environment by removing excess ions and recycling neurotransmitters. Oligodendrocytes: responsible for creating the myelin sheath — this thin layer coats nerve cells, allowing them to send signals quickly and efficiently. Ependymal cells: lining the spinal cord and the brain's ventricles fluid-filled spaces , these create and secrete cerebrospinal fluid CSF and keep it circulating using their whip-like cilia.

Radial glia: act as scaffolding for new nerve cells during the creation of the embryo's nervous system. The cranial nerves are 12 pairs of nerves that arise directly from the brain and pass through holes in the skull rather than traveling along the spinal cord. These nerves collect and send information between the brain and parts of the body — mostly the neck and head.


Of these 12 pairs, the olfactory and optic nerves arise from the forebrain and are considered part of the central nervous system:. Olfactory nerves cranial nerve I : transmit information about odors from the upper section of the nasal cavity to the olfactory bulbs on the base of the brain. Optic nerves cranial nerve II : carry visual information from the retina to the primary visual nuclei of the brain. Each optic nerve consists of around 1. Trauma: depending on the site of the injury, symptoms can vary widely from paralysis to mood disorders. Infections: some micro-organisms and viruses can invade the CNS; these include fungi, such as cryptococcal meningitis; protozoa, including malaria; bacteria, as is the case with leprosy, or viruses.

Degeneration: in some cases, the spinal cord or brain can degenerate. One example is Parkinson's disease which involves the gradual degeneration of dopamine-producing cells in the basal ganglia. Structural defects: the most common examples are birth defects; including anencephaly, where parts of the skull, brain, and scalp are missing at birth. Tumors: both cancerous and noncancerous tumors can impact parts of the central nervous system.

Both types can cause damage and yield an array of symptoms depending on where they develop. Autoimmune disorders: in some cases, an individual's immune system can mount an attack on healthy cells. For instance, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis is characterized by an immune response against the brain and spinal cord, attacking myelin the nerves' insulation and, therefore, destroying white matter. Stroke: a stroke is an interruption of blood supply to the brain; the resulting lack of oxygen causes tissue to die in the affected area.

The term peripheral nervous system PNS refers to any part of the nervous system that lies outside of the brain and spinal cord. The CNS is separate from the peripheral nervous system, although the two systems are interconnected. The nerve axons of the CNS — the slender projections of nerve cells that carry impulses — are much shorter. PNS nerve axons can be up to 1 meter long for instance, the nerve that activates the big toe whereas, within the CNS, they are rarely longer than a few millimeters.

Much of the PNS has the ability to regenerate; if a nerve in your finger is severed, it can regrow. The CNS, however, does not have this ability. The components of the central nervous system are further split into a myriad of parts. Below, we will describe some of these sections in a little more detail. Article last updated by Tim Newman on Fri 22 December All references are available in the References tab. Cantalupo, C. Asymmetric Broca's area in great apes: A region of the ape brain is uncannily similar to one linked with speech in humans.

Driesen, N. The influence of sex, age, and handedness on corpus callosum morphology: A meta-analysis. Herculano-Houzel, S. The human brain in numbers: a linearly scaled-up primate brain. Vilensky, J. The neglected cranial nerve: nervus terminalis cranial nerve N. MLA Newman, Tim. MediLexicon, Intl. APA Newman, T. MNT is the registered trade mark of Healthline Media.

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Scroll to Accept. Get the MNT newsletter. The examiner also looks for atrophy or tremor of the tongue. The strength of the tongue is tested by asking the patient to protrude it and to move it from side to side against a tongue depressor Figure 3. The functions of these fiber bundles are considered in later course sessions. For now, it is sufficient to learn the difference between the cerebral and cerebellar peduncles and their locations in the brainstem.

You have already been introduced to these peduncles; now use Figure 2. The internal organization of the brainstem is considerably more complicated than that of the spinal cord. However, two factors work in your favor as you study its features. First, important general principles of organization of the spinal cord also hold true for the brainstem. Second, much of the complexity of the brainstem is contributed by cell groups and axon tracts that will not be considered in this course. In the following discussion, the general plan of organization of the brainstem is presented first.

Next, the prominent internal features that characterize each subdivision are identified. An understanding of the functions and locations of these nuclei is essential for diagnosing and treating neurological injury, dysfunction and disease, as well as mental illness and a spectrum of dysfunctions manifest in human behavior. However, the brainstem changes continuously along its length—the subdivision into three parts is somewhat arbitrary.

As a compromise between examining three sections one for each subdivision and hundreds, seven sections of the brainstem are shown to serve as representatives Figure 2. Once you understand the organization of these seven levels and the way various pathways traverse them, you should be able to identify the location of any section through the brainstem and the important pathways represented in it.

A schematic overview of the levels of the brainstem to be discussed is presented in Figure 4. At this stage, it is not important to study the details; we will come back to them. For now, three points should be taken from the figure:. In Figures 2. As usual, be sure to focus on the structures identified in the figure legends in bold font.

Our purpose here is to help you recognize the distinctive features of the embryological subdivisions of the brainstem, and to introduce you to some of the gray matter nuclei and white matter tracts; peduncles that you will study in more detail elsewhere in the course. We will return to these same sections frequently as the course progress these same section are fully annotated in Sylvius4 Online , including the next laboratory session when we will turn our attention squarely on the cranial nerve and neuromodulatory nuclei.

The Brainstem Cross Sectional Atlas in Sylvius4 contains 14 sections through the brainstem and four spinal cord sections featuring segmentation of well over neuroanatomical structures. This atlas should be used to fill-in the gaps between the seven sections illustrated in this chapter. As you work through these chapter figures and the associated legends, find the same structures one at a time in the Brainstem Cross Sectional Atlas in Sylvius4. The sections shown here are actually re-colorized versions of the same sections that are in Sylvius4. Since we are not yet studying the functional significance of many of these structures we will do so over the next few weeks , you should click on the structures identified in the figures, and when you do so, that structure becomes selected and a brief overview of that structure becomes available in the text window.

Tip —to increase the magnification of the image, grab the lower-right corner of the image window and pull the window to its maximum extent. With reference to Figures 2. Spend some time browsing the six medullary sections in Sylvius4 , and find each of the internal features described in the chart below.

Surface feature. Internal structure. Caudal medulla Figure 2. Gracile tract dorsal surface. Cuneate tract dorsal surface. Pyramidal decussation ventral surface. Middle to rostral medulla Figure 2. Medullary pyramids ventral surface. Inferior olive ventral-lateral surface.

Hypoglossal nerve XII ventral-lateral surface. As you did for the medulla, spend some time browsing the sections in Sylvius4 , and find each of the internal features described in the chart below. Middle of pons fig 2. Middle cerebellar peduncle ventral-lateral surface. Trigeminal nerve V ventral-lateral surface. Caudal pons fig 2. Abducens nerve VI ventral-medial surface. Facial nerve VII ventral-lateral surface. Vestibulocochlear nerve VIII ventral-lateral surface.

As you did for the medulla and pons, now spend some time browsing the sections in Sylvius4 , and find each of the internal features described in the chart below. Midbrain Figures 2. Cerebral peduncles ventral surface. Oculomotor nerve III ventral surface. Inferior colliculi dorsal surface. Superior colliculi dorsal surface. Examine slabs through human brainstem specimens. Click here to submit questions or comments about this site. Course Information. Contact Faculty. Head Cross Sections.

Anatomy Site. Histology Site. Embryology Site. Mnemonic note: the nerves with a roman numeral X in their name enter and exit at the medulla , those with a "V" except IV enter and exit the pons. Ventral surface of midbrain. Laboratory Guide, Chapter 3. Lab 3 Protocols Spinal Cord Learning objective : to recognize the principal features of the spinal cord, including the longitudinal organization of spinal segments and internal distinctions among levels.

Specimens: one spinal cord specimen available for demonstration purposes Activities: Open the Laboratory Guide to Figure 2. Identify the cervical and lumbosacral enlargements, and the thoracic and sacral regions. Identify dorsal and ventral roots. Differentiate the dura mater from arachnoid mater, and identify denticulate ligaments Identify the posterior and anterior spinal arteries, and draining veins Open the Laboratory Guide to Figure 2.

Do Challenge 3. Medulla oblongata Learning objective : to recognize the principal features of the medulla oblongata as seen from the surface, including the attachments of cranial nerves VI-X and XII and XI. Specimens : whole brains, mid-sagittal hemispheres, and brain or brainstem models Activities : Refer to Figure 2. Find each of the features listed in the chart and described in the text as you can on actual specimens of the human brainstem.

Some features may be best observed in whole brain specimens, but some may be appreciated just as easily in hemi-brains that were sectioned in the mid-sagittal plane.

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Pons Learning objective : to recognize the principal features of the pons as seen from the surface, including the attachments of cranial nerves V and VI-VIII. Some features may be best observed in whole brain specimens, but some may be appreciated best in hemi-brains that were sectioned in the mid-sagittal plane.

Do the brainstem Challenges Learning objective : to recognize the relation between major external features of the brainstem, including the cranial nerves, and internal gray matter and white matter structures in each embryological division. Find each of the features listed in the charts and described in the text as you can on actual specimens. Identify internal features of the brainstem that account for distinctive external features of each embryological subdivision; refer to the Brainstem Atlas in Sylvius4 Online for additional sections and annotations.

Examine slabs through human brainstem specimens Learning objective : to recognize the principal features of the brainstem that are visible with the unaided eye, including major gray matter and white matter structures in each embryological division. Specimens: whole brain slabs or gross sections cut through the brainstem Activities: Repeat Challenges 2.

Find as many of the visible gray and white matter features listed in the chart and described in the text as you can on actual specimens of the human brainstem. Introduction The central nervous system interacts with the outside world through primary sensory neurons, which convey information from the body or its environment into the brain and spinal cord, and motor neurons, which activate striated muscles and modulate the activity of cardiac and smooth muscles and glands Figure 2.

Terminology and general principles The next few sections contain definitions and illustrations of some commonly used neuroanatomical terminology. Terms used to refer to gray matter Column Cortex plural: cortices; L. You will also encounter the following terms used to refer to general regions of the central nervous system: tectum L. The spinal cord Learning objective : to recognize the principal features of the spinal cord, including the longitudinal organization of spinal segments and internal distinctions among levels.

Specimens : one spinal cord specimen available for demonstration purposes Activities : Open the Laboratory Guide to Figure 2. Do Challenge 2. Internal anatomy of the spinal cord The following discussion of the internal anatomy of the spinal cord will introduce some of the general principles of organization that also hold true for the brainstem.

Challenge 3. Chart Dorsal horn. Lateral horn. Ventral horn. White matter. Gracile tract. Cuneate tract. Sylvius Self-Study Exercise—Medullary surface click here to launch Sylvius online To explore the surface of the medulla when the brain is not in hand, open Sylvius4 , enter the Brainstem Model in the Surface Anatomy group, and select Brainstem Model. Sylvius Self-Study Exercise—Pontine surface click here to launch Sylvius online To explore the surface of the pons when the brain is not in hand, open Sylvius4 , enter the Brainstem Model in the Surface Anatomy group, and select Brainstem Model.

So the trochlear nerve is unsual in these two respects: 1 it exits the CNS from the dorsal aspect; and 2 it supplies contralateral muscles. Sylvius Self-Study Exercise—Midbrain surface click here to launch Sylvius online To explore the surface of the midbrain when the brain is not in hand, open Sylvius4 , enter the Brainstem Model in the Surface Anatomy group, and select Brainstem Model. Sylvius Self-Study Exercise—Internal Brainstem Features click here to launch Sylvius online The Brainstem Cross Sectional Atlas in Sylvius4 contains 14 sections through the brainstem and four spinal cord sections featuring segmentation of well over neuroanatomical structures.

Challenge 2. Gracile tract dorsal surface pair of extended longitudinal bulges on either side of a deep midline furrow; technically, this bulge is called the tuberculum gracilis , which is formed by the underlying gracile tract continuation of the tract of the dorsal spinal cord. Cuneate tract dorsal surface pair of extended longitudinal bulges just lateral to the gracile tracts; technically, this bulge is called the tuberculum cuneatus , which is formed by the underlying cuneate tract continuation of the tract of the dorsal spinal cord.

Pyramidal decussation see Medullary pyramids below midline crossing of dense bundles of myelinated axons that run the longitudinal extent of the ventral brainstem accounts for the formation of the lateral and ventral anterior corticospinal tracts of the spinal cord. Medullary pyramids ventral surface pair of extended longitudinal bulges on either side of a deep midline furrow. Inferior olive ventral-lateral surface pair of elongated bulges just lateral to the pyramids; a shallow furrow separates the pyramid and olive on each side. Inferior olivary nucleus prominent nucleus of the ventral-lateral medulla just dorsal to the medullary pyramids note the highly convoluted bands of gray matter that account for the superficial, ventral-lateral bulge.

Hypoglossal nerve XII ventral-lateral surface exits through ventral-medial surface. Vestibulocochlear nerve VIII ventral-lateral surface enters through ventral-lateral surface at pontomedullary junction most lateral of the three that emerge from this junction. Vestibular nuclear complex explore the lateral tegmentum of the pons and locate nuclei of the vestibular nuclear complex you may not find any nerve VIII roots in these cross sections ; you will find the vestibular nuclei dorsal to the trigeminal nuclear complex and spinal trigeminal tract find the superior, lateral and medial vestibular nuclei section down into the medulla and locate the spinal vestibular nucleus so what about the cochlear division of nerve VIII?

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