The Spine, the Brain, & the Central Nervous System

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: April 22, 2014

central nervous systemIt’s a given the spine surgeons must know the human spinal cord inside and out. Performing surgery on such a complex and vital bodily system requires a dearth of knowledge. But spinal surgeons must also have a comprehensive understanding of the human brain. Why? Because the spinal cord and brain are inextricably linked. In this article we will explore the connection between the brain and spine.

The Central Nervous System

Combined, the brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS controls nearly every action that our bodies perform, from walking, to eating, to breathing. Simply put, the central nervous system is the most functionally important system in our bodies. Without it we would shut down.

The brain has three primary parts:

  1. The Cerebrum – controls simple muscle movement, speech, and emotions
  2. The Cerebellum – controls more complex muscle movements like walking
  3. The Brain Stem – controls basic functions like breathing

The brain stem connects directly to the spinal cord and allows nerves to travel from the brain all the way down through the spinal cord and into the other regions of the body. These nerves transmit information from anywhere in the body to the brain, which then directs actions. For example, when you raise your right hand, a signal travels from your hand through the nerves, all the way up to your brain. When the brain receives this signal it directs the movement of your right hand. This all happens in fractions of a second. Other signals are sent involuntarily to and from the brain to keep the body operating. For example, you don’t have to think about breathing or making your heartbeat – these functions just happen regularly.

Injuries to the CNS

Since the spine, brain, and central nervous system are so integral to our functionality it can be disastrous with the system is interfered with. Pinched nerves, bulging discs, and trauma to the back or neck can negatively impact these nerves. Most spine surgeries are meant to correct these conditions when they occur and to keep the body functioning and pain free.

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