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Nervous system

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Define the nervous system and understand its division.
  2. Learn the components and functions of the central nervous system.
  3. Learn the components and functions of the peripheral nervous system.

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The nervous system is a complex network of neurons that generate, transmit and interpret neural impulses. The system is divided into the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS), each having a specific location, function and components.

  • The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and spinal cord
  • The peripheral nervous system (PNS) consists of the peripheral nerves, namely the cranial and spinal nerves and all their branches. Furthermore, all the body plexuses and ganglia belong to the PNS. The PNS is functionally divided into the somatic nervous system, otherwise known as the voluntary system; and to the autonomic nervous system, also known as the involuntary system. Lastly, the autonomic nervous system is divided into two synchronized compartments, called the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

This video tutorial will explain the breakdown of the nervous system, as well as the key points to take into account concerning the functions of each of the nervous system parts.

If you are a novice in the nervous system anatomy, these video tutorials below can also help you get started.

Take a quiz

Take this quiz to solidify your knowledge and discover any potential weak spots.

If you feel like a pro already, customize your own quiz to get a broader focus on the nervous system and challenge yourself further!

Learn the basics of the nervous system with the following PDF worksheets.


Browse atlas

Examine each of the main components of the nervous system with our atlas gallery below.


Key points about the nervous system
Central nervous system (CNS) Brain: Cerebrum, brainstem, cerebellum
Spinal cord:
Cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccygeal parts
Peripheral nervous system (PNS) Spinal nerves and their branches, cranial nerves and their branches, ganglia, plexuses
Divisions of the PNS Somatic nervous system (voluntary)
Autonomic nervous system (involuntary):

Sympathetic nervous system
Parasympathetic nervous system

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