Female Head Showing Brain and Spinal Cord



Video Topic : Visualization starting with a shot of an opaque female head in profile facing right. As the camera rotates in front of her, the skin becomes more transparent, revealing the brain more and more until the camera comes to a profile shot facing left. The camera moves to the right and the face fades out some more so that the brain (left cerebral hemisphere and cerebellum) and spinal cord can be seen.

SPINAL CORD

The spinal cord extends from the foramen magnum at the base of the skull to the level of the first lumbar vertebra. The cord is continuous with the medulla oblongata at the foramen magnum. Like the brain, the spinal cord is surrounded by bone, meninges, and cerebrospinal fluid.

The spinal cord is divided into 31 segments, with each segment giving rise to a pair of spinal nerves. At the distal end of the cord, many spinal nerves extend beyond the conus medullaris to form a collection that resembles a horse's tail. This is the cauda equina. In cross section, the spinal cord appears oval in shape.

Illustration of the nerves and cauda equina

Spinal Cord

The spinal cord extends from the foramen magnum at the base of the skull to the level of the first lumbar vertebra. The cord is continuous with the medulla oblongata at the foramen magnum. Like the brain, the spinal cord is surrounded by bone, meninges, and cerebrospinal fluid.

The spinal cord is divided into 31 segments with each segment giving rise to a pair of spinal nerves. At the distal end of the cord, many spinal nerves extend beyond the conus medullaris to form a collection that resembles a horse's tail. This is the cauda equina. In cross section, the spinal cord appears oval in shape.

The spinal cord has two main functions:

  • Serving as a conduction pathway for impulses going to and from the brain. Sensory impulses travel to the brain on ascending tracts in the cord. Motor impulses travel on descending tracts.
  • Serving as a reflex center. The reflex arc is the functional unit of the nervous system. Reflexes are responses to stimuli that do not require conscious thought and consequently, they occur more quickly than reactions that require thought processes. For example, with the withdrawal reflex, the reflex action withdraws the affected part before you are aware of the pain. Many reflexes are mediated in the spinal cord without going to the higher brain centers.

Nation Cancer Institute / NIH



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