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Chapter: Modern Pharmacology with Clinical Applications: General Organization and Functions of the Nervous System

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General Organization and Functions of the Nervous System

The nervous system is divided into two parts: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).

GENERAL ORGANIZATION AND FUNCTIONS OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

The nervous system is divided into two parts: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous sys-tem (PNS). The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord. The PNS consists of all afferent (sensory) neurons, which carry nerve impulses into the CNS from sensory end organs in peripheral tissues, and all efferent (motor) neurons, which carry nerve impulses from the CNS to effector cells in peripheral tissues. The peripheral effer-ent system is further divided into the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. The effector cells innervated by the somatic nervous system are skeletal muscle cells. The autonomic nervous system in-nervates three types of effector cells: (1) smooth muscle, cardiac muscle, and (3) exocrine glands. While the somatic nervous system can function on a reflex basis, voluntary control of skeletal muscle is of primary im-portance. In contrast, in the autonomic nervous system voluntary control can be exerted, but reflex control is paramount.

Both somatic and autonomic effectors may be re-flexly excited by nerve impulses arising from the same sensory end organs. For example, when the body is ex-posed to cold, heat loss is minimized by vasoconstric-tion of blood vessels in the skin and by the curling up of the body. At the same time, heat production is increased by an increase in skeletal muscle tone and shivering and by an increase in metabolism owing in part to secretion of epinephrine.

In general terms, the function of the autonomic nervous system is to maintain the constancy of the in-ternal environment (homeostasis). This includes the regulation of the cardiovascular system, digestion, body temperature, metabolism, and the secretion of the ex-ocrine glands.

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