The central nervous system of the human body is responsible for many things, a function that is possible thanks to the elaborate branching out of synapses and the spinal cord present in the human body. Together, they are responsible for making our bodies’ move, play, and feel pain.
The Human Spinal Cord
There are more than 30 bones which make up the spinal cord in your nervous system. These bones are what make you a vertebrate or a living thing with a backbone. All the nerves from your nervous system are connected to the spinal cord. They pass through a narrow channel in the center of the spine.
If the human spine gets misaligned, it can cause adverse effects to the human body. Each vertebra can potentially affect different parts of the body. Based on which vertebrae are affected, some of the body’s functions can be severely affected as well based on the segment of the spinal cord which passes through it. Any sort of distress in the nervous system can start affecting the brain, the brain stem, the spinal cord and/or the peripheral nerves.
The spinal cord is populated with nerve roots and rootlets that form branch-like appendages. It is divided into the corresponding segments: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccygeal. After these segments, the dorsal roots are found which are responsible for the transmission of ‘pain’ messages to and from the cord to the brain. If you ever suffered any injury and trauma and felt pain as a result, you now know what is responsible for making you feel that way. The spinal cord lets the body know if there is something wrong.
The vertebrae also have round and spongy pads of cartilage, called discs, between them. These discs serve as shock absorbers for the body. In most documented cases, it was found that a disproportionate amount of heavy pressure as well as degeneration from overexerting physical activities can cause these discs to bulge and shift and protrude. This can result in severe pain and mental duress. This adverse condition is called a slipped or ruptured disc, in medical terms. It can also lead to permanent nerve damage.
How the Synapse Transmits Information in the Nervous System
A synapse is like a pipeline in the human body that allows information to travel from one neuron to another. The information travels instantly. The reason behind the quick response of synapses lies in the makeup of the neurons. Neurons have specialized projections called dendrites and axons. It is the function of dendrites to bring information to the cell bodies. Similarly, axons transmit information away from the cell body. A synapse has a small gap that separates the neurons. Here is what the synapse in the nervous system is made up of:
- A presynaptic ending with neurotransmitters, mitochondria and other cell organelles
- A postsynaptic ending consisting receptor sites for neurotransmitters
- A synaptic cleft or space between the presynaptic and postsynaptic endings.
An electric current is what allows for communication between neurons to occur. Here’s how it works:
- First, the electric pulse results in the migration of vesicles, housed within some neurotransmitters. This current travels from presynaptic ending towards the presynaptic membrane. It is then that the vesicle membrane releases the neurotransmitters to the synaptic cleft after fusing with it.
- These neurons are known to release more than one type of neurotransmitter than was previously believed. And this is largely responsible for a variety of feelings.
- These neurotransmitter molecules go on to cross the synaptic cleft. It is there that they bind with receptor sites on postsynaptic endings. This tends to influence the electrical response in the postsynaptic neuron. The postsynaptic ending is also known as a dendrite. Synapses can occur on axons and cell bodies.
As for chemical synapses, they are a bunch of specialized junctions that facilitate signals between neurons to each other and to non-neuronal cells in muscles or glands. These chemical synapses result in the formation of neuron circuits within the central nervous system. It is this network of circuits that is responsible for perception and thought processes. They allow the nervous system to connect to and control other systems of the body.