The central nervous system, or CNS, is largely responsible for brain and body function. It is made up of the brain and spinal cord, which are incredibly complex, interconnected systems that affect everything we do.
The CNS is vital to our basic daily functioning. It controls both voluntary and involuntary movement, from walking and talking to breathing and your heartbeat. The nervous system is also the epicenter of perception, thought, and emotion.
The brain is the origin of everything your body does. Not only is it responsible for thoughts, feelings, and environmental interpretation of information that comes through the senses, but all physical actions and movements stem from brain signals passing through the nervous system.
The Spinal Cord
The spinal cord is the superhighway of nervous communication signals and consists of three main sections: cervical (neck), thoracic (chest), and lumbar (lower back). Each section is responsible for sending nerve signals to their respective parts of the body.
The spinal cord is connected to the back of the brain and runs the length of the spine. Layers of tissue protect both the spinal cord and the brain, collectively called the meninges.
CNS signals go both ways, from the brain to the spinal cord and vice versa. External stimuli are communicated to the brain through our sensory functions — touch, taste, sight, and smell — and the brain sends back electric response signals that dictate how we perceive and react to our surroundings.
Electric signals move from the brain throughout the body, passing from neuron to neuron through the synapses, tiny gaps between the cells. These signals are aided on their journey by chemicals called neurotransmitters, which are released as the signal moves between neurons. In the spinal cord alone, there are millions upon millions of these neurons and synapses, which effectively form a chain of communication from the brain to the rest of the body. When the spinal cord is injured, the data exchange from the brain is disrupted and can result in impaired function in parts of the body.