10 Interesting Facts About The Nervous System

By Victoria Simpson on May 27 2020 in Science

The human nervous system is a highly complex organ system. Image credit: PopTika/Shutterstock.com
The human nervous system is a highly complex organ system. Image credit: PopTika/Shutterstock.com
  • Your sciatic nerve is the biggest in your body, running down each leg.
  • Your spinal cord nerves do not regenerate.
  • You have lost about 1/10 of your nerves by the age of 75.

Your nervous system is your body’s communication panel. Like a computer that keeps you running at all hours, it is composed of your brain, spinal cord, and nerves, and it acts like control central, sending signals around your physique and brain telling them how to act. Your nervous system controls everything from your sleep, to your balance, your learning abilities, your five senses, stress reactions, when you go through puberty, how you age, and much more. There is still a lot science has to learn about how our mind and body work together, and this list can provide you with a small beginning. 

Here are ten interesting things to know about your nervous system.

10. It is Composed of Billions of Parts

Synapse and neurons in the human brain. Image credit: Marko Aliaksandr/Shutterstock.com
Synapse and neurons in the human brain. Image credit: Marko Aliaksandr/Shutterstock.com

While it may be difficult to imagine, your nervous system is actually made of billions of tiny pieces. The whole thing is a bit like the vast expanse of stars in the sky that make up our galaxy- it can seem to go on, and on. It is said there are about 100 billion neurons in your brain and a whopping 13.5 million neurons present in your spinal cord.  

All of these work together to help you sleep, breathe, live, and chase success.

9. It is Extremely Fast

Two neurons connecting by using electrochemical transmissions. Digital illustration. Image credit: Andrea Danti/Shutterstock.com
Two neurons connecting by using electrochemical transmissions. Digital illustration. Image credit: Andrea Danti/Shutterstock.com

So, you think that car zooming by on the road is ultra speedy? Signals in your nervous system are presently racing along in your body at a bottleneck pace that would most definitely beat it. Amazingly fast, your nervous system is able to transmit signals at about 328 feet (100 meters) per second.

8. It Controls Your Blood

Your nervous system is so central to your health that it is even involved in controlling the flow of your blood, and your blood pressure. Your autonomic and sympathetic nervous systems contribute to this functioning. 

7. It Has Two Parts: the Central Nervous System, and the Peripheral Nervous System

Anatomy of the nervous system. Image credit: Systemoff/Shutterstock.com
Anatomy of the nervous system. Image credit: Systemoff/Shutterstock.com

Animals (like us) that have a backbone and a spinal column have a nervous system that has two parts. The central nervous system (CNS) is formed by the brain, the spinal cord, and the retinas of your eyes. 

Your peripheral nervous system (PNS) consists of the nerves and ganglia found outside your brain, which run throughout your body, connecting the nervous system in your brain to things like your arms, legs, and skin.

6. It is Also Home to Two Types of Nerve Cells

The different types of nerve cells. Image credit: Designua/Shutterstock.com
The different types of nerve cells. Image credit: Designua/Shutterstock.com

Nerves are obviously an important part of the nervous system, hence its name. Your nerves both receive and send messages between your brain and different parts of your body. There are two types of nerve cells: glial cells and neurons.

Glial cells do not conduct electrical impulses like neurons do, but rather  they support your neurons. Glial cells do this by providing insulation between neurons formed of myelin, which helps them transmit signals rapidly. 

5. And Two Types of Neurons

The impulses are transmitted through the motor neuron in one direction. Image credit: Designua/Shutterstock.com
The impulses are transmitted through the motor neuron in one direction. Image credit: Designua/Shutterstock.com

Nerves are made of axons, which are essentially a bunch of neurons packed together. Neurons communicate with other cells by sending electrochemical waves along axons as messages. There are two main types of neurons: sensory neurons and motor neurons.  Sensory neurons convert stimuli from outside your body into internal electrical impulses. Your body then reacts appropriately by contracting a muscle to do something like bounce a basketball.

Your motor neurons do the opposite, transmitting electrical impulses from your spinal cord to your muscles, working from the inside, out.

4. Some Are Irreplaceable

Sadly, the neurons in your spinal cord cannot be replaced once they are damaged. Your peripheral nerves in your limbs and organs can grow back if hurt, but once those in your spine are gone, the damage is permanent. This is why when someone damages their spinal cord and it is serious, they become paralyzed. Scientists are always learning more and working on ways to figure out how to regenerate your spinal cord, but the answer still remains, in large part, a mystery.

3. You Lose Your Neurons as You Age

You do not just lose all your spunky energy when you age- you also lose your neurons. As the years go by your brain gradually shrinks, and by the time you reach 75, you have lost 1/10 of your neurons.

2. Your Longest Nerve Runs Down Your Legs

The sciatic nerve is the longest in your body, running all the way from your spinal cord to your toes down each of your legs. This nerve is responsible for controlling muscles in your lower legs, and also provides your lower leg and the skin on your feet with sensations. So, you can blame your sciatic nerve if you have very ticklish feet.

1. Your Neurons Can Make You Yawn

Have you ever wondered why you yawn when your friend does? You can now blame your mirror neurons. These neurons make you imitate, or “mirror” some behaviors, rendering them “contagious”. 

Your nervous system is an essential part of your body that is extremely complex, providing doctors and scientists with many puzzles to solve, as modern medicine advances.

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