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Ganglia of the nervous system

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Understand how ganglia are categorized.
  2. Recognize the main differences between spinal and autonomic ganglia.
  3. Identify these structures in histological slides.

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Ganglia are clusters of nerve cell bodies in the peripheral nervous system. Ganglia can be broadly categorized into two groups, that is, sensory ganglia (relating to the somatic nervous system (SNS)), and autonomic ganglia (relating to the autonomic nervous system (ANS)). The function of ganglia is not yet fully understood, but we know that they are able to process signals to a certain extent, independently of the central nervous system (CNS).

Spinal ganglia
, a subtype of sensory ganglia, consist of neurons of the somatic nervous system and house nerve cell bodies of pseudounipolar neurons. They are located in the dorsal root of the spinal nerve and use their nerve fibers to transmit signals from the environment to the CNS.

Autonomic ganglia consist of nerve cells of the autonomic nervous system, which can be further categorized into sympathetic, parasympathetic and enteric ganglia. The nerve cells of the autonomic ganglia consist of multipolar neurons.

Watch the following video to learn more about the ganglia of the nervous system:

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