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Health,  Nervous System

What is the Nervous System?

The nervous system is a vast and intricate system of “wires” (nerves and specialized cells called neurons) that transmit signals to and from different parts of the body. If you were to compare a house to the human body, the nervous system is essentially our body’s electrical wiring.

There are two components to the nervous systems structure: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system is made of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. And the peripheral nervous system consists of ganglia (clusters of neurons), sensory neurons, and nerves that not only connect to one another but also to the central nervous system.

The Peripheral Nervous System

The peripheral nervous system then divides into two functions. The somatic and the autonomic nervous systems. The autonomic is exactly what it sounds like, it controls involuntary/automatic body processes like breathing and digestion. The somatic nervous system on the other hand is the nervous system that connects the brain with the muscles and sensory receptors of the skin. 

The Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system is very important because it can play a substantial role in our overall wellbeing, health, balance, and happiness. This nervous system wants to keep us in homeostasis (a fancy scientific terms that means our natural zero). It maintains the body’s internal environment as well as controls and maintains:

  • Digestion
  • Metabolism
  • Urination
  • Defecation
  • Blood pressure
  • Sexual response
  • Body temperature
  • Heartbeat
  • Breathing rate
  • Fluid Balance

So, the autonomic system is further divided into three systems, the entric nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is what stimulates the body’s fight or flight response. Whereas the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for “rest-and-digest” or “feed-and-breed” activities.

flow chart of the nervous system and its many subdivisions

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Check the graphic above to get a clearer picture of how the nervous system is virtually organized!

And there you have it, a quick and brief explanation of what the nervous system is. The sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PSNS) are really special systems that can affect us in so many ways–negatively and positively. If you’re interested in learning more about these systems, and how to balance them, dive deeper with the following blogs, you’ll find plenty of practical resources as well!

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