Central Nervous System: Definition, Function & Parts

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  • 0:02 Definition
  • 0:26 Neurons
  • 1:11 The Brain
  • 2:06 The Spinal Cord
  • 2:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

The body is divided into many systems. In this lesson, you will learn about the parts that make up the nervous system and their functions to gain a better understanding of this critical system.

Definition of the Central Nervous System

As you think, see, breath and do everything throughout the day, you are using your central nervous system. It is the system of the body that receives and processes all information from all parts of the body. It consists of the brain, the spinal cord and neurons. It is arguably the most important system of the body.

Two of the primary components of the central nervous system are the brain and the spinal cord, seen in this image.
An image of the brain and spinal cord.

Parts & Functions of the Central Nervous System

Neurons are the basic units that make up the nervous system. All cells of the nervous system are made of neurons. Neurons are able to transmit electrical impulses throughout the body as signals that cause a response. There are three types of neurons known as motor, sensory and interneurons. Motor neurons transmit information between organs, glands and muscles. Sensory neurons send information to the brain and spinal cord from internal organs or external stimuli encountered by the parts of the body. Interneurons act as messengers that relate signals between motor and sensory neurons.

The brain is the control center of the body. The brain is typically considered to have three main parts: the forebrain, the hindbrain and the brain stem. The forebrain receives and processes sensory information such as thinking, understanding and producing language and motor functions. The forebrain consists of the thalamus, the hypothalamus, cerebrum and cerebral cortex.

This image shows the forebrain.
An image of the forebrain.

The hindbrain has parts known as the pons, cerebellum and medulla oblongata. The hindbrain functions in maintaining balance and equilibrium, movement coordination and processing some sensory information.

In this picture, you can see the hindbrain highlighted in red.
An image of the hindbrain.

The brain stem extends down to the spinal cord and is responsible for auditory and visual responses as well as motor function.

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