The spinal cord is perhaps one of the most impressive and important structures in the body. It transmits signals from touch receptors to the brain as well as signals from the brain to other parts of the body to allow movements to be made.
Signals from the brain that are responsible for things such as heart rate, breathing and blood pressure are also transmitted through the spinal cord. The spinal cord also acts as support frame that helps us remain upright.
In layman’s terms, explaining the brain in relation to the spinal cord can be achieved with this effective analogy:
Think of the brain as a postal office, sending and receiving mail from places around the world. On the other hand, the spinal cord is like the mail trucks, which are responsible for carrying the mail to and from the postal office.
The brain is connected to the spinal cord by the brain stem, which consists of three distinct parts: the midbrain, the medulla oblongata, and the pons.
In short, our bodies would not be able to function without a complex network known as the nervous system. This is split into two parts, the central and the peripheral nervous system.
The central nervous system basically comprises of the brain and the spinal cord, both of which are protected by three membranes and cerebrospinal fluid. In addition to this, the brain is covered by the hard bone of the skull and the spinal cord is protected by 33 vertebrae which run down the centre of back.
The brain and the spinal cord are seen as two separate entities and are connected by an area of the body called the brain stem. This has a number of functions including to control the flow of messages between the brain and the rest of the body. It’s also involved in controlling basic functions that we take for granted such as our blood pressure, swallowing and breathing.
The brainstem is divided into three regions:
The brain stem has some very important neural responsibilities when it comes to the body and even a small amount of damage can have dramatic consequences. For instance, damage to this area can often cause speech impairments as well as mobility and movement coordination problems.
While both the spinal cord and the brainstem are made up of nerve tissue and are involved in transmitting signals to and from the brain, there are some subtle differences between the two.
Our central nervous system is a biological masterpiece, responsible for so much of what the body is able to do. The brain is the powerhouse that drives everything but the brain stem and the spinal cord are also vital for the full functioning of the body.
While they share common characteristics, they also have their own set of functions. Any damage to these two areas can have a catastrophic impact on how we process and send signals to other parts of the body.
Central Cord Syndrome
Heterotopic Ossification and Spinal Cord Injuries
Lumbar Spinal Cord Injuries Explained
Partial Paralysis vs Full Paralysis After a Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal Cord Injury FAQs
Cervical Spinal Cord Injuries Explained
Degenerative Disc Disease Explained
Sacral Spine Injuries