Nervous system: Living Internet of the Body – DRAFT ONLY

Learning Objectives

Sensing anything or doing anything requires neurons to send messages to each other. The network re-wires itself as you learn.

Hi everyone! Today I am going to be telling you about the nervous system. I will cover basic components of the nervous system and how these parts work together to communicate. We will discuss how these elements relate to the internet and our computers that we all know and love and how the brain can change!

Central Nervous System

First let’s begin with the central nervous system, this is also called the CNS. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. When we think about the internet as a whole, that is how the central nervous system works. It is the body’s control center and it coordinates actions. The CNS receives messages from the world around you and then decides how to react to the information.

Peripheral Nervous System

The peripheral nervous system, also known as the PNS, carries information to and away from the central nervous system. Our devices that connect to the internet are like the PNS. There are two components of the peripheral nervous system, the autonomic nervous system and the somatic nervous system.

Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system relays information from the central nervous system to the organs. The autonomic nervous system is automatic, also known as involuntary. For example, you don’t think about making your heart beat, the autonomic nervous system does it for you. There are two parts of the autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system controls fight or flight responses. This is what kicks in if you were to see a hungry bear in the woods, you choose to either fight, or flee. This nervous system makes your heart rate increase and your digestion slow down, it calls you into action. The parasympathetic nervous system controls your body in times of rest. This is when you rest and your pulse slows and digestion can start.

Somatic Nervous System

Somatic means body. The somatic nervous system relays information between skin, skeletal muscles, and the central nervous system. You consciously control this pathway by deciding to move your muscles.


All right, something has to be doing all of this messaging right? Right. That is done by neurons. Neurons are the basic unit of structure and function in the nervous system. Neurons are composed of a cell body, dendrites and axons. The myelin sheath wraps around the axon to propel the message from the cell body down the axon super fast.

A diagram shows the general shape of a neuron. There are lost of branch-like dendrites near the cell body. Then there is a single pipeline called the axon which leads the the axon terminal. The myelin sheath is wrapped around the axon.
Fig. 1 Diagram Of A Neuron

Dendrites are branch-like extensions that receive impulses and carry them towards the cell body. Axons are a single extension of the neuron that carries action potentials or impulses, away from the cell body.

At the end of each neuron there is a synaptic terminal. Through this synaptic terminal neurons are able to communicate with each other through chemical neurotransmitters. The meeting of these terminals is called a synapse. At this synapse, an action potential causes a neuron to release a chemical neurotransmitter.

I like to think of the networks in our brain like a road. The ones we travel frequently are like the freeway, fast and accessible. The ones we don’t like a side street, are a little less easy to access. The idea of neuroplasticity is that we can turn a sidestreet into a fast and frequently traveled road if we take it enough. In the brain, new thoughts and skills carve out a new “road”. Repetition and practice strengthen these pathways and make them more accessible to our daily use. And old pathways that we don’t use often diminish. With repeated practice and repetition we can work towards a desired change and “rewire” our brains.

Now that we know some basic components of the brain, let’s relate them to the internet and computer. In addition to neurotransmitters, the brain, much like a computer uses electrical signals to send messages. They both transmit information, the computer uses binary code and the brain uses action potentials. Both the brain and computer can grow their memory. A computer’s memory can grow by adding chips and your brain’s memory can grow by forming stronger synaptic connections. And they both need energy, the brain needs nutrients and oxygen and your computer needs electricity.

All right, that’s all I have! Thanks for reading and I hope you learned a little something about the brain!



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