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Central Nervous System

brain and spinal cord


portion of the central nervous system contained within the cranium


largest portion of the brain: divided into right and left halves, known as cerebral hemispheres, which are connected by a bridge of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum; lobes of the cerebrum are named after the skull bones they underlie

frontal lobe

anterior section of each cerebral hemisphere; responsible for voluntary muscle movement and personality

parietal lobe

portion posterior to the frontal lobe; responsible for sensations such as pain, temperature, and touch

temporal lobe

portion that lies below the frontal lobe; responsible for hearing, taste, and smell

occipital lobe

portion posterior to the parietal and temporal lobes; responsible for vision

cerebral cortex

outer layer of the cerebrum consisting of gray matter; responsible for higher mental functions

thalamus or diencephalon

each of two gray matter nuclei deep within the brain; responsible for relaying sensory information to the cortex


convolutions (mounds) of the cerebral hemispheres


shallow grooves that separate gyri


deep grooves in the brain


portion of the brain located below the occipital lobes of the cerebrum; responsible for control and coordination of skeletal muscles


region of the brain that serves as a relay between the cerebrum, cerebellum, and spinal cord; responsible for breathing, heart rate, and body temperature; the three levels are the misencephalon (midbrain), pons, and medulla oblongata


series of interconnected cavities within the cerebral hemispheres and the brainstem filled with cerebrospinal fluid

cerebrospinal fluid

plasma-like clear fluid circulating in and around the brain and spinal cord

spinal cord

column of nervous tissue from the brainstem through the vertebrae; responsible for nerve conduction to and from the brain and the body


three membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, consisting of the dura mater, pia mater, and arachnoid mater

Peripheral nervous system

nerves that branch from the central nervous system including nerves of the brain (cranial nerves) and spinal cord (spinal nerves)

cranial nerves

12 pairs of nerves arising from the brain

spinal nerves

31 pairs of nerves arising from the spinal cord

sensory nerves

nerves that conduct impulses from body parts and carry sensory information to the brain, also called afferent nerves

motor nerves

nerves that conduct motor impulses from the brain to the muscles and glands, also called efferent nerves

autonomic nervous system

nerves that carry involuntary impulses to smooth muscle, cardiac muscle, and various glands


control center for the autonomic nervous system located below the thalamus (diencephalon)

sympathetic nervous system

division of the autonomic nervous system that is concerned primarily with preparing the body in stressful or emergency situations

parasympathetic nervous system

division of the autonomic nervous system that is most active in ordinary conditions; it counterbalances the effects of the sympathetic system by restoring the body to a restful state after a stressful experience

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