Every millisecond of every day, your nervous system is hard at work to bring you this experience you call life. Isn’t that astounding? Even on your worst days, your nervous system is by no means slacking off.
Mind blown? Well, hold onto your chair because it gets even better.
5 Surprising Facts About Your Nervous System
1. Your nervous system is divided into two parts
If you’re human and reading this, chances are your nervous system is divided into two parts. What differentiates one part from another is where it is located in your body.
PART 1: The CNS, or Central Nervous System
The Central Nervous System houses the bulk of your nervous system and comprises two of our most important internal features: our brains and our spinal cords. Think of the CNS as the place where your body coordinates the information sent to it by other spheres—your very own control center.
PART 2: The PNS, or Peripheral Nervous System
The Peripheral Nervous System is, you guessed it, what’s left over. All the nerves and ganglia not part of the CNS fall into this division. Think of the PNS as your body’s courier company. It connects your CNS to the rest of your limbs and organs, passing information back and forth to keep the whole operation of You running smoothly.
And this nervous system of yours is not a simple operation. The staff count is high in this operation. In fact:
2. Your body is composed of billions of neurons
When somebody tells you that you are a ball of nerves, they’re not lying. But rather than this being an insult, it should be a source of great pride. In your brain alone, you have approximately 100 billion neurons, firing off electrochemical signals in one incredibly impressive information network. Even in your most sedentary state, there’s a fireworks display going on inside you. Yes, you are indeed a celebration.
Thankfully there is some method to this madness inside of you. Your neurons all have different functions and are divided accordingly.
Which brings us to our next point:
3. Your neurons are divided into four types
Each type of neuron plays a vital function within your body. They are:
Remember the Central Nervous System we spoke of? Well, this is where you’ll find your motor neurons—in the spinal cord, to be exact. They are in charge of your movement and send impulses from the spinal cord to your muscles. The motor neurons that transmit impulses between the brain and the spinal cord are called the upper motor neurons, and those that operate between the spinal cord and the muscles are called the lower motor neurons.
Why does that snowball feel cold in your bare hands? Why does that music sound so jarring? Why is the light in that room just too bright? Well, you can thank your sensory neurons for all of that. They are the connectors between you and the outside world. They deliver information to your nervous system so that it can begin to process everything that happens around you.
Interneurons are the fun little messengers that go between your motor and sensory neurons. They work hard to make sure the whole system gets the information it needs.
Your brain neurons are the receptors in your brain, and their function is complex. Taking the information from the rest of the system, they ultimately transform it into your experience of being alive.
4. Your nervous system prepares you to flee or fight
If triggered, your nervous system will tell you whether or not you should get ready for action. Should you get the boxing gloves out, or run as fast as you can across the plains? You may experience this in a variety of different situations—your heart beats faster than you can keep up with, your breath gets shallow, your palms sweat. In our modern day world, this tends to happen to us in situations that are (at least in the majority of cases) not life threatening, like public speaking for example.
5. You may want to up the privacy settings on your nervous system
That’s because recent developments have meant that scientists are able to gain more and more control over the nervous system to the point where they can manipulate elements of it.
But while this may sound like something out of your worst science fiction nightmare, it is more likely that it is in your best interests. Through gaining better insight into how our nervous systems operate, the field of medicine will take some exciting turns. From assisting people with mobility issues to aiding people with autoimmune diseases, our capacity to “hack” our nervous systems may serve to improve the quality of life of many.
This is getting on my nerves—in a good way
Learning more about your nervous system can help you understand the wonder that exists within you. If you feel like you’re ready to test your knowledge—and learn more about yourself in the process—take this quiz about the nervous system.
How well do you really know yourself?