Pathways and Integrative Functions of the Nervous System ppt

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Pathways and Integrative Functions of the Nervous System ppt

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Human Anatomy, First Edition
McKinley & O’Loughlin

Chapter 17 Lecture Outline: Pathways and Integrative Functions

Pathways of the Nervous System

CNS communicates with body structures via pathways.

sensory or motor information

processing and integration occur continuously

Pathways travel through the white matter of the spinal cord.

Connect various CNS regions with peripheral nerves.

Pathways of the Nervous System

Consists of a tract and a nucleus.

Tracts are groups or bundles of axons that travel together in the CNS.

Each tract may work with multiple nuclei groups in the CNS.

A nucleus is a collection of neuron cell bodies located within the CNS.


Nervous System Pathways

Ascending pathways

carry sensory information from the peripheral body to the brain

Descending pathways

transmit motor information from the brain or brainstem to muscles or glands

Pathway crosses over from one side of the body to the other side at some point in its travels.

The left side of the brain processes information from the right side of the body, and vice versa.

Nervous System Pathways

Most exhibit a precise correspondence between a specific area of the body and a specific area of the CNS.

Pathways that connect these parts of the primary motor cortex to a specific body part exhibit somatotopy.

Nervous System Pathways

All pathways are composed of paired tracts.

A pathway on the left side of the CNS has a matching tract on the right side of the CNS.

Both left and right tracts are needed to innervate both the left and right sides of the body.

Pathways are composed of a series of two or three neurons that work together.

Nervous System Pathways

Sensory pathways

have primary neurons, secondary neurons, and sometimes tertiary neurons that facilitate the pathway’s functioning

Motor pathways

use an upper motor neuron and a lower motor neuron

the cell bodies are located in the nuclei associated with each pathway


Nervous System Pathways

Sensory pathways

conduct information about limb position and the sensations of touch, temperature, pressure, and pain

Somatosensory pathways

process stimuli received from receptors within the skin, muscles, and joints

Viscerosensory pathways

process stimuli received from the viscera


Sensory Receptors

Detect stimuli and then conduct nerve impulses to the CNS

Sensory pathway centers within either the spinal cord or brainstem process and filter the incoming sensory information.

They determine whether the incoming sensory stimulus should be transmitted to the cerebrum or terminated.

More than 99% of incoming impulses do not reach the cerebral cortex and our conscious awareness.


Primary (First-Order) Neuron

Sensory pathways utilize a series of two or three neurons to transmit stimulus information from the body periphery to the brain.

The first neuron is the primary (first-order) neuron

The dendrites are part of the receptor that detects a specific stimulus.

The cell bodies reside in the posterior root ganglia of spinal nerves or the sensory ganglia of cranial nerves.

Secondary (Second-Order) Neuron

The axon of the primary neuron projects to a secondary neuron within the CNS.

Is an interneuron.

The cell body resides within either the posterior horn of the spinal cord or a brainstem nucleus.

The axon projects to the thalamus, where it synapses with the tertiary neuron.

Tertiary (Third-Order) Neuron

Also an interneuron.

Its cell body resides within the thalamus.

The thalamus is the central processing and coding center for almost all sensory information.


Posterior Funiculus-Medial Lemniscal Pathway

Projects through the spinal cord, brainstem, and diencephalon before terminating within the cerebral cortex.

tracts within the spinal cord

posterior funiculus

tracts within the brainstem

medial lemniscus

Conducts sensory stimuli concerned with proprioceptive information about limb position and discriminative touch, pressure, and vibration sensations.

Anterolateral Pathway

Located in the anterior and lateral white funiculi of the spinal cord.

anterior spinothalamic tract

lateral spinothalamic tract

Axons projecting from primary neurons enter the spinal cord and synapse on secondary neurons within the posterior horns.

Axons entering these pathways conduct stimuli related to crude touch and pressure as well as pain and temperature.

Axons of the secondary neurons cross over and relay stimulus information to the opposite side of the spinal cord before ascending toward the brain.


Spinocerebellar Pathway

Conducts proprioceptive information to the cerebellum for processing to coordinate body movements.

Composed of anterior and posterior spinocerebellar tracts.

the major routes for transmitting postural input to the cerebellum

Sensory input is critical for regulation of posture and balance and coordination of skilled movements.

These are different from the other sensory pathways in that they do not use tertiary neurons.

they only have primary and secondary neurons


Motor Pathways

Descending pathways in the brain and spinal cord that control the activities of skeletal muscle.

Formed from the cerebral nuclei, the cerebellum, descending projection tracts, and motor neurons.

Regulate the activities of skeletal muscle.



Corticobulbar Tracts

Originate from the facial region of the motor homunculus within the primary motor cortex.

Axons extend to the brainstem, where they synapse with lower motor neuron cell bodies that are housed within brainstem cranial nerve nuclei.

Axons of these lower motor neurons help form the cranial nerves.

Corticobulbar Tracts

Transmit motor information to control:

eye movements (via CN III, IV, and VI)

cranial, facial, pharyngeal, and laryngeal muscles (via CN V, VII, IX, and X)

some superficial muscles of the back and neck (via CN XI)

intrinsic and extrinsic tongue muscles (via CN XII)


Corticospinal Tracts

Descend from the cerebral cortex through the brainstem and form a pair of thick bulges in the medulla called the pyramids.

Continue into the spinal cord to synapse on lower motor neurons in the anterior horn of the spinal cord.

Indirect Pathway

Several nuclei within the mesencephalon initiate motor commands for activities that occur at an unconscious level.

Nuclei and their associated tracts.

Cell bodies of its upper motor neurons are located within brainstem nuclei.

Axons take a complex, circuitous route before finally conducting the motor impulse into the spinal cord.

Indirect Motor Pathways in the Spinal Cord

Originate from neurons housed within the brainstem.

Muscular activity localized within the head, limbs, and trunk of the body.


Exhibit a high degree of complexity.



Role of the Cerebral Nuclei

Receive impulses from the entire cerebral cortex, including the motor, sensory, and association cortical areas, as well as input from the limbic system.

Most of the output goes to the primary motor cortex.

Do not exert direct control over lower motor neurons.

Provide the patterned background movements needed for conscious motor activities by adjusting the motor commands issued in other nuclei.

Somatic Motor Control

Several regions of the brain participate in the control of motor activities.

Motor programs require conscious directions from the frontal lobes.

Movement is initiated when commands are received by the primary motor cortex from the motor association areas.

The cerebellum is critically important in coordinating movements because it specifies the exact timing of control signals to different muscles.

Levels of Processing and Motor Control

Simple reflexes that stimulate motor neurons represent the lowest level of motor control.

The nuclei controlling these reflexes are located in the spinal cord and the brainstem.

Brainstem nuclei also participate in more complex reflexes.

Initiate motor responses to control motor neurons directly.

Oversee the regulation of reflex centers elsewhere in the brain.

Cerebral Cortex

Control highly variable and complex voluntary motor patterns.

Occupy the highest level of processing and motor control.

Motor commands may be conducted to specific motor neurons directly.

May be conveyed indirectly by altering the activity of a reflex control center.

Cerebral Cortex

Higher-order mental functions:

consciousness, learning, memory, and reasoning

involve multiple brain regions connected by complicated networks and arrays of axons

conscious and unconscious processing of information are involved in higher-order mental functions

may be continually adjusted or modified


Cerebral Lateralization

Each hemisphere tends to be specialized for certain tasks.

Higher-order centers in both hemispheres tend to have different but complementary functions.

Cerebral Lateralization

Left hemisphere is the categorical hemisphere and it functions in categorization and symbolization.

contains Wernicke’s area and the motor speech area

specialized for language abilities

important in performing sequential and analytical reasoning tasks (science and mathematics)

appears to direct or partition information into smaller fragments for analysis

Speech-dominant hemisphere.

controls speech in almost all right-handed people as well as in many left-handed ones


Cerebral Lateralization

Right hemisphere is called the representational hemisphere.

concerned with visuospatial relationships and analyses

the seat of imagination and insight, musical and artistic skill, perception of patterns and spatial relationships, and comparison of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes

Both cerebral hemispheres remain in constant communication through commissures, especially the corpus callosum, which contains hundreds of millions of axons that project between the hemispheres.



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