Nervous System – Overview

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6 Lessons

Welcome to the Nervous System Course Work.

As you’ve learned through your studies, the nervous system is a dynamic and complex topic – it does not stand alone as an area of study. Rather, the nervous system is tied into each and everyone of the other focus areas within the scope of Physiotherapy.

Due to its complexity, depth of anatomy, broad range of pathologies, and the ease by which it spills over into other areas of physiotherapy practice, typically, this area of study is weaker for many physiotherapy candidates. To assist you in improving your understanding of this area and augmenting information retention, this course has been subdivided into smaller more manageable sections.

*Key Note:
Understanding neurological anatomy is key when tackling rehabilitation cases in a neurological setting. Further, the national examination often tries to test the musculoskeletal section by using questions that are designed to initially appear as though they are neuro focused questions. Understanding how the brain and spinal cord function, as well as signs and symptoms of related pathologies, will help you understand any exam question.

In this course, we start with a general overview of central and peripheral nervous systems…Right Now!!


Nervous System Overview: Organization (Divisions and Subdivisions)

The nervous system is organized into two distinct regions: The Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)

  • Central Nervous System (CNS) = Brain and Spinal Cord
  • Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) = Cranial Nerves and Spinal Nerves

The CNS is considered to have 7 basic parts:

  • Cerebral Hemispheres
  • Diencephalon
  • Midbrain
  • Pons
  • Medulla (*note that pons and medulla together are called the ‘hindbrain’)
  • Cerebellum
  • Spinal Cord

(*Note: The EPE team has provided individual review courses for each of these 7 areas.)

The PNS is made of nerves that connect glands, muscle, organs, and other soft tissue.

  • Cranial Nerves: 12 pairs; name is based on function; emerges through foramina (holes) in skull
  • Spinal Nerves: 31 pairs; name is based on location within the vertebral column and that emerge between adjacent vertebrae
  • Peripheral Nerves: PNS bundles of neuron processes
  • Ganglion: Groups of peripheral nerve cell bodies; enlargements along peripheral nerves
  • Ganglion Cell: Neuron whose soma is situated in the PNS

The PNS carries information to the CNS via afferent pathways. The CNS carries information to the PNS via efferent pathways.  Information that in sent to the CNS is involuntary, however, information sent from the CNS to the body can be either voluntary (somatic) or involuntary (autonomic).

Afferent Fibers (carry messages to the CNS)

  1. Sensory Afferent Division – general info to CNS
  2. Somatic Afferents – from skin, muscle, joints
  3. Visceral Afferents – from membranes & organs

Efferent Fibers (carries messages from CNS to the body)

  1. Motor Efferent Division – general info from CNS
  2. Somatic Efferent Nervous System (Voluntary) – to skeletal muscles
  3. Autonomic Nervous System (Involuntary) – to organs and glands

**Note: Autonomic Efferent Fibers have their own Sub-group: 

  • Sympathetic Division
  • Parasympathetic Division

Course Materials