Nervous Tissue: Definition, Function & Types

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  • 0:00 What is Nervous Tissue?
  • 0:55 Types of Nervous Tissue
  • 2:10 Function of Nervous Tissue
  • 4:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

Nervous tissue makes up the different parts of our nervous system. It allows us to receive stimuli and process the information. Learn more about this tissue and take a short quiz at the end.

What is Nervous Tissue?

It is hard to imagine a moment during our waking hours when our senses are not in use. We are constantly bombarded with sensory input, from a delicious aroma wafting our way to a painful stubbed toe. All of this information is processed by our brain every millisecond. Some sensory experiences are positive, and some we'd rather forget. But none of our senses would even function without the existence of our nervous system.

There are several main components of our nervous system, and they are composed of nervous tissue. The word tissue tends to elicit the thought of wiping runny noses. But in terms of our body, tissue is defined as a group of cells with the same general functions forming organs and other body parts. Nervous tissue is responsible for receiving, sending, and processing sensory input. In this lesson, learn about the components of nervous tissue and gain a better understanding of how it works for our body.

Types of Nervous Tissue

Nervous tissue makes up three major parts of our nervous system: nerves, the spinal cord and the brain. Our nervous system consists of two main parts: the peripheral and central nervous systems. The peripheral nervous system consists of the nerves that extend to all reaches of the body- the periphery. The central nervous system is made up of the spinal cord and brain and is the central processing center for all stimuli.

Peripheral nervous tissue consists of nerves made up of nerve cells called neurons. Nerves extend all over the body, from the tips of the fingers to internal organs. They form a long line of connectivity, like a chain of paper clips linked together. Nerves connect to the spinal cord, which in turn, connects to the brain. So when you feel a stimulus in your toe, for example, the sensory impulse must travel from the nerves, all the way to the brain and back in order for you to process that feeling.

Nerves Extending From Arm to Fingers

The spinal cord and brain are also made up of nerves. These nerves are housed in a soft material known as matter. Within the spinal cord, we find gray and white matter holding nerves in place, as well as spinal fluid. And, of course, the brain is also made up of gray matter as well as white matter, with nerves embedded within.

Brain and Spinal Cord are Nervous Tissue
Central Nervous System

Function of Nervous Tissue

Our nervous tissue allows us to experience stimuli and then make a response. For example, imagine a scenario in which you are attempting to hammer a nail into the wall. After two tries, you accidentally hammer your finger. Now let's freeze that moment. At the actual split-second that contact is made, there is no pain. At least not yet. But wait a millisecond, and the throbbing begins. Why did it take time before you felt the pain?

Let's zoom in on the nerve cells themselves to better understand the entire process. Neurons are an extremely unique type of cell specialized just for work within the nervous system. They consist of a cell body and then appendages that reach out from that central body. If you took a spoonful of paint and threw it on the floor, you might end up with a shape similar to a neuron.

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