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Nervous System

Imagine you’re berry picking, and you see a perfectly ripe berry you want to pick. Each step of this process: seeing the berry, thinking about how delicious it will be, deciding to pick it, and moving your arm towards the berry are all organized by your nervous system!

Your nervous system is one of the ways your body can communicate from one system to another. The nervous system is made up of very specialized cells, nerve cells (neurons) and glial cells.

You probably associate your brain with your nervous system, but there is a little more to it! There are two main branches of your nervous system: the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). Your brain and your spinal cord make up the CNS, and all the other nerves in your body make up the PNS.

Your brain weighs about three pounds, and its texture is like animal fat. The two main cell type in your brain are neurons and glia. Neurons can come in many shapes! *picture* Neurons pass information to one another with electrical impulses and chemical messengers, and glia speed up the passage of information, provide nutrients to neurons, and much more!

Your brain can be divided into four sections, called lobes. These lobes each have main functions different from one another.

The occipital lobe processes information that comes in through your eyes and sends it to other parts of your brain. When you listen to your favorite band or any other sound, your temporal lobe is activated. It is also particularly involved in storing your memories. When you feel a dog brush against your leg or the snow under your fingers, this sort of sensory information is sent to your parietal lobe. And finally, your frontal lobe, which leads all of your decision making and planning. Within these broad sections, there are many smaller, more specialized sections. The brain is one of the most complicated organs in our body – scientists are still discovering new systems in the brain!

A large role of your nervous system is to transport information from parts of your body to the brain. For example, when you scrape your knee falling off a bike, the nerve cells in your knee send pain signals up your spine and to your brain so that you know you got hurt! Or when go outside in the winter, nerve cells tell your brain when your skin gets cold.

Besides transferring information from one place to another, your nervous system also makes sure that you continue breathing, your heart keeps beating, and your keep digesting, even when you’re not directly thinking about it.

Written using information from the NIH National Cancer Institute, the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the University of Washington.

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