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Spinal cord

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Understand the histological structure of the spinal cord.
  2. Identify its parts under the microscope.

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The outer layer of the spinal cord is made up of white matter. It is divided into three funiculi: anterior, lateral and posterior, and contains several neural pathways. Ascending tracts convey information from the periphery to the brain. On the other hand, the descending tracts carry information from the brain to the periphery. 

The spinal cord extends within the spinal canal from the foramen magnum of the skull to the lumbar region. It is protected by three meninges, the dura mater, arachnoid mater and pia mater. It is responsible for both relaying sensory information to the brain and transmitting motor commands from the brain to the muscles.

The spinal cord is divided into a central, gray matter and a peripheral, white matter. The gray matter is the butterfly-shaped central part of the spinal cord and is comprised of neurons and synapses. It is divided into anterior, lateral and posterior horns. The anterior horn houses the motor neurons, while the posterior horn receives sensory information.

White matter consists primarily of myelinated nerve fibers and is organized into ascending (sensory) and descending (motor) tracts. The fiber tracts are organized into an anterior funiculus, a lateral funiculus and a posterior funiculus.

Learn more about the histology of the spinal cord by viewing the video below:

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