What is Neuroanatomy?

Marisa O'Connor

Neuroanatomy is the study of the structure and function of the nervous system. The nervous system is made up of many connected systems that work together to send and receive messages from the central nervous system, which is the brain and spinal cord, to the rest of the body. These systems include the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and somatic nervous system. They also include the autonomic nervous system, sympathetic nervous system, and parasympathetic nervous system. Within each of these systems, information is carried in electrical energy by nerve cells and neurons.

A diagram of different types of neurons.
A diagram of different types of neurons.

The physical structure of neuroanatomy is that of the nervous system. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system is formed by the nerves and pathways that send messages from the central nervous system to the rest of the body.

Neuroaatomy involves charting the human nervous system.
Neuroaatomy involves charting the human nervous system.

The peripheral nervous system can be divided into two subcategories: the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. The somatic nervous system is responsible for carrying sensory information from the sense organs to the central nervous system as well as carrying motor instructions to the muscles. The autonomic nervous system can also be divided into two subcategories. The sympathetic nervous system is the part of the autonomic nervous system that is responsible for fight or flight response, and the parasympathetic nervous system is in charge of resting states and conserving energy.

The nervous system sends messages to the muscles and glands of the body so that it can properly respond to changes within the body or in the immediate environment, which the nervous system is also responsible for detecting. Receptors are a part of neuroanatomy that receive sensory stimuli, which are converted into nerve impulses. The nerve impulses are the previously mentioned messages sent to the muscles and glands, also called effectors.

The communication that occurs in neuroanatomy, between the receptors and effectors, is facilitated by protoplasmic processes in the nerve cells. These cells are able to carry messages from one part of the body to another almost instantly. The messages are carried and received via thread-like branching processes, called dendrites and axon. The axon is what carries information from the cell, while the dendrites receive the information. A neuron is a nerve cell that has all of its processes.

Neurons are an integral part of neuroanatomy. Each neuron is a separate entity that together forms a chain that extends throughout the entire body. They receive information from sensory receptors or other neurons and transmit the information, via changes in electrical energy, to other neurons or effectors.

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