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The nervous system is an amazing and complex network of nerve cells, or neurons, which allow us to communicate with the outside world. Neurons relay messages as electrical signals from the receptor, such as your skin when you touch a hot pan, to your muscles, which contract pulling your arm away, simultaneously sending pain signals to the brain.
The nervous system as a whole consists of two distinct parts, the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS includes all the nerves of the brain and spinal cord, safely contained within the skull and vertebral canal of the spine. All of the other nerves in the body are part of the PNS.
On a deeper level, both the CNS and PNS can be split into two further classifications, voluntary or involuntary. The voluntary, or somatic, nervous system controls all our conscious movements, like waving, walking and opening our mouths. Pretty straightforward. The involuntary or autonomic nervous system controls the things we can’t consciously influence and is slightly more complex. This includes regulating bodily processes like breathing and heart rate. An example of how this works in reality, if your body gets too hot, your involuntary nervous system increases the blood circulation to your skin and makes you sweat more to cool your body down again.
Needless to say, when things go awry with your brain and nervous system you can face difficult to treat conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, cognitive problems and behavioural problems. There are many environmental factors as well as mainstream drugs that can affect the functioning of your brain and nervous system. For instance, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax has recently been linked to irreversible dementia. The Internet and all the technological advances of the past decade have also been shown to affect our deep-brain thinking (losing the ability to transfer knowledge from short-term “working” memory to long-term memory).
The Daily Health explores all the risk factors and potentially dangerous therapies while offering alternative measures that will help you protect this very important and delicate system.
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