Your nervous system is one of the most complex systems in your body. It controls all of the activities that go on inside of you, from breathing to digesting food. Here are six things you may not know about your nervous system.
Table of Contents
1. The vagus nerve plays a key role in the gut-brain interactions
The vagus nerve is the longest and one of the most important nerves in your body. It travels from your brainstem down to your abdomen, and plays a role in many different functions, including heart rate, digestion, and breathing. One of the ways the vagus nerve affects these functions is by controlling vagal tone. Vagal tone is the measure of how active your vagus nerve is, and it can be high or low depending on how stimulated your vagus nerve is. A high vagal tone has been linked with better health outcomes, including lower blood pressure, reduced stress levels, and a healthier heart rate. Low vagal tone has been linked with increased risk for conditions like obesity, depression, and heart disease. Thus, it is important that you take steps to boost your vagal tone to keep your body in good condition. You can improve your vagal tone by doing things that stimulate the vagus nerve, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
2. The vast majority of our nervous system is actually outside of our brain.
The nervous system is divided into two parts: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (CNS). The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system consists of all of the other nerves in the body.
While the brain is certainly the most important part of the CNS, it’s not the only part. The spinal cord is a critical component of the CNS as well, and it extends down through the neck and back. The spinal cord is responsible for relaying messages between the brain and the rest of the body.
3. The peripheral nervous system is actually much larger than the central nervous system
The PNS consists of all of the nerves that branch off from the spinal cord and lead to the rest of the body. There are literally millions of these nerves, which is why the PNS is often referred to as “the nervous system outside of the brain”. The PNS is home to a variety of different types of neurons, or nerve cells. These include:
- Sensory neurons: These neurons send information about touch, temperature, pain, etc., from the periphery of the body to the CNS.
- Interneurons:These neurons connect different parts of the brain and play a role in processing information.
- Motor neurons: These neurons carry messages from the CNS to the muscles, causing them to contract.
4. The PNS is responsible for some really important functions
While the CNS is responsible for controlling the body’s voluntary movements, the PNS is in charge of regulating all of the body’s involuntary functions, such as breathing and heart rate. The PNS consists of two main divisions: the somatic nervous system and autonomic nervous system. The somatic nervous system is responsible for sending sensory information to the brain, while the autonomic nervous system controls all of the body’s automatic processes, such as digestion and blood pressure.
The autonomic nervous system can be subdivided into two branches: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for “fight or flight” situations, while the parasympathetic nervous system helps the body to relax and rest.
Here are some of the most important functions of the PNS:
- It helps us to feel sensations like touch, pain, and temperature.
- It helps us to move our muscles.
- It helps us to think and reason.
- It helps us to regulate our emotions.
- It helps us to digest food.
- It helps us to sleep and wake up.
Without the PNS, the body would be a total mess! So, next time you take a step or breathe a sigh of relief, be sure to thank your nervous system for keeping everything running smoothly.
5. The human nervous system is made up of billions of neurons
The average human brain has about 100 billion neurons. Each neuron can form thousands of connections with other neurons. Each neuron has a cell body, which contains the nucleus, and a long tail called an axon. Axons are wrapped in a fatty substance called myelin, which helps to insulate them and speed up the transmission of signals.
The space between two neurons is called a synapse. When a signal reaches the end of an axon, it triggers the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters, which cross the synapse and bind to receptors on the next neuron. This process allows information to be passed from one neuron to the next, and ultimately from the brain to the body.
6. Nerves are made up of two types of cells: neurons and neuroglia
Neurons are the cells that transmit signals from the brain to the body, and neuroglia are the cells that support and protect the neurons. Nerves communicate with each other by sending electrical signals called nerve impulses. Nerve impulses are created when a small amount of electricity is released from one neuron and travels across the gap between two neurons. Nerve impulses can travel incredibly fast. These impulses can travel at speeds up to 400 miles per hour.
This is why we can react so quickly to things that happen around us – our nervous system is constantly processing information and relaying it to the brain for interpretation. Some nerve impulses are so fast, they can’t be consciously controlled. There are some nerve impulses that are too fast for us to consciously control. These are called “automatic” or “involuntary” responses, and they include things like blinking, breathing, and heart rate.
The nervous system is a vital and complex system in the human body. It controls everything from our thoughts and feelings to our muscles and organs. And while we may take it for granted, there’s still a lot we don’t know about this amazing system. Now that you know a little more about your nervous system, you can marvel at how complex your body functions internally. You can also appreciate all that the nervous system does for you on a daily basis! Make it a point to take care of your health to keep your nervous system and all other bodily functions in excellent condition.