The nervous system is a complex network of specialized cells called neurons that coordinate and regulate the activities of the body. It plays a vital role in transmitting signals and information throughout the body, allowing us to perceive and respond to our environment. Here are some important nervous system terms explained in Medical English suitable for learners at the B1 to B2 levels:
Neuron: Neurons are the fundamental units of the nervous system. They are nerve cells responsible for transmitting electrical and chemical signals between different parts of the body.
Nerve: Nerves are bundles of nerve cells that transmit electrical signals between different parts of the body. They can be sensory nerves, which carry information from the body to the brain, or motor nerves, which carry signals from the brain to the muscles.
Central Nervous System (CNS): The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord. It serves as the control center of the body, processing information, and coordinating responses.
Peripheral Nervous System (PNS): The PNS includes all the nerves outside the CNS. It connects the CNS to the rest of the body and carries sensory and motor signals.
Brain: The brain is the command center of the nervous system. It controls various bodily functions, such as thoughts, emotions, and movement. It is composed of numerous regions that specialize in specific functions.
Spinal Cord: The spinal cord is a long bundle of nerves that extends from the brainstem down the vertebral column. It relays messages between the brain and the body and coordinates reflex actions.
Synapse: A synapse is a junction where two neurons meet and transmit signals. It consists of a small gap called the synaptic cleft, across which neurotransmitters are released to facilitate the transmission of signals.
Autonomic Nervous System (ANS): The ANS regulates involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate, digestion, and breathing. It consists of two main divisions – the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the “fight or flight” response, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and digestion.
Neurotransmitter: Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit signals between neurons. They are crucial for communication within the nervous system and play a significant role in regulating mood, cognition, and behavior.
In addition to the common anatomy terms, you should know some basic pathology terms for the brain and CNS.
Stroke: A stroke occurs when there is a disruption of blood flow to the brain, leading to the death of brain cells. It can result in symptoms like sudden weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking, or loss of coordination.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS): MS is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective covering of nerve fibers (myelin) in the central nervous system. This can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, muscle weakness, and problems with coordination.
Epilepsy: Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurring seizures. Seizures occur due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain, leading to a temporary disturbance in movement, behavior, sensation, or consciousness.
Parkinson’s disease: Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects movement. It is caused by the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Common symptoms include tremors, stiffness, slowness of movement, and balance problems.
Alzheimer’s disease: Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that primarily affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It is characterized by the accumulation of abnormal protein structures in the brain and is the most common cause of dementia.
Peripheral Neuropathy: Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage or dysfunction of the peripheral nerves, resulting in numbness, tingling, pain, or muscle weakness. It can have various causes, including diabetes, infections, and certain medications.
Migraine: A migraine is a type of headache disorder characterized by recurrent, throbbing headaches often accompanied by other symptoms, such as sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and visual disturbances.
Spinal Cord Injury: A spinal cord injury occurs when there is damage to the spinal cord, resulting in a loss of function or sensation. The severity and location of the injury determine the extent of disability. Common causes include trauma, accidents, and falls.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS): ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It leads to muscle weakness, paralysis, and ultimately, difficulty with speaking, swallowing, and breathing.
Neuropathic Pain: Neuropathic pain is chronic pain caused by damage or malfunction of the nervous system. It is often described as a burning, shooting, or tingling sensation and can be challenging to treat.
Understanding these nervous system pathology terms is essential for healthcare professionals to diagnose, treat, and manage various neurological conditions. By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you can effectively communicate with colleagues and patients and contribute to the care and treatment of individuals with nervous system disorders. Happy studying!