As you know, the functions of the organs/organ systems in our body must be coordinated to maintain homeostasis. Coordination is the
process through which two or more organs interact and complement the functions of one another. For example, when we do physical exercises, the energy demand is increased for maintaining an increased muscular
activity. The supply of oxygen is also increased. The increased supply of oxygen necessitates an increase in the rate of respiration, heart beat and increased blood flow via blood vessels. When physical exercise is stopped,
the activities of nerves, lungs, heart and kidney gradually return to their normal conditions. Thus, the functions of muscles, lungs, heart, blood vessels, kidney and other organs are coordinated while performing physical
exercises. In our body the neural system and the endocrine system jointly coordinate and integrate all the activities of the organs so that they function in a synchronised fashion.
The neural system provides an organised network of point-to-point connections for a quick coordination. The endocrine system provides chemical integration through hormones.
NEURAL SYSTEM :
The neural system of all animals is composed of highly specialised cells called neurons which can detect, receive and transmit different kinds of stimuli.
The neural organisation is very simple in lower invertebrates. For example, in Hydra it is composed of a network of neurons. The neural
system is better organised in insects, where a brain is present along with a number of ganglia and neural tissues. The vertebrates have a more developed neural system.
HUMAN NEURAL SYSTEM :
The human neural system is divided into two parts :
(i) the central neural system (CNS)
(ii) the peripheral neural system (PNS)
The CNS includes the brain and the spinal cord and is the site of information processing and control. The PNS comprises of all the nerves
of the body associated with the CNS (brain and spinal cord). The nerve fibres of the PNS are of two types :
(a) afferent fibres
(b) efferent fibres
The afferent nerve fibres transmit impulses from tissues/organs to the CNS and the efferent fibres transmit regulatory impulses from the CNS to the concerned peripheral tissues/organs. The PNS is divided into two divisions called somatic neural system and autonomic neural system. The somatic neural system relays impulses from the CNS to skeletal muscles while the autonomic neural system transmits impulses from the CNS to the involuntary organs and smooth muscles of the body. The autonomic neural system is further classified into sympathetic neural system and parasympathetic neural system.
NEURON AS STRUCTURAL AND FUNCTIONAL UNIT OF NEURAL SYSTEM :
A neuron is a microscopic structure composed of three major parts,
namely, cell body, dendrites and axon . The cell body contains cytoplasm with typical cell organelles and certain granular bodies
called Nissl’s granules. Short fibres which branch repeatedly and project
out of the cell body also contain Nissl’s granules and are called dendrites.
These fibres transmit impulses towards the cell body. The axon is a long fibre, the distal end of which is branched. Each
branch terminates as a bulb-like structure called synaptic knob which possess synaptic vesicles containing chemicals called neurotransmitters. The axons transmit nerve impulses away from the cell body to a synapse or to a neuro-muscular junction. Based on the number of axon and dendrites, the neurons are divided into three types, i.e., multipolar (with one axon and two or more dendrites; found in the cerebral cortex), bipolar(with one axon and one dendrite, found in the retinaof eye) and unipolar (cell body with one axon only; found usually in the embryonic stage). There are two types of axons, namely, myelinated and non- myelinated. The myelinated nerve fibres are enveloped with Schwann cells, which form a myelin.sheath around the axon. The gaps between two adjacent myelin sheaths are called nodes of Ranvier. Myelinated nerve fibres are found in spinal and cranial nerves. Unmyelinated nerve fibre is enclosed by a Schwann cell that does not form a myelin sheath around the axon, and is commonly found in autonomous and the somatic neural systems.
Generation and Conduction of Nerve Impulse
Neurons are excitable cells because their membranes are in a polarised state. Do you know why the membrane of a neuron is polarised? Different types of ion channels are present on the neural membrane. These ion
channels are selectively permeable to different ions. When a neuron is not conducting any impulse, i.e., resting, the axonal membrane is
comparatively more permeable to potassium ions (K+) and nearlyimpermeable to sodium ions (Na+). Similarly, the membrane is
impermeable to negatively charged proteins present in the axoplasm. Consequently, the axoplasm inside the axon contains high concentration of K+ and negatively charged proteins and low concentration of Na+. In
contrast, the fluid outside the axon contains a low concentration of K+, a high concentration of Na+ and thus form a concentration gradient. These ionic gradients across the resting membrane are maintained by the active
transport of ions by the sodium-potassium pump which transports 3Na+ outwards for 2 K+
into the cell. As a result, the outer surface of the axonal membrane possesses a positive charge while its inner surface becomes negatively charged and therefore is polarised. The electrical potential difference across the resting plasma membrane is called as the
resting potential. You might be curious to know about the mechanisms of generation
of nerve impulse and its conduction along an axon. When a stimulus isapplied at a site on the polarised membrane, the membrane at the site A becomes freely permeable to Na+. This leads
to a rapid influx of Na+ followed by the reversal of the polarity at that site,i.e., the outer surface of the membrane becomes negatively charged and the inner side becomes positively charged. The polarity of the membrane at the site A is thus reversed and hence depolarised. The electrical potential difference across the plasma membrane at the site A is called the
action potential, which is in fact termed as a nerve impulse. At sites immediately ahead, the axon membrane has a positive charge
on the outer surface and a negative charge on its inner surface. As a result, a current flows on the inner surface from site A to site B. On the
outer surface current flows from site B to site A to complete the circuit of current flow. Hence, the polarity at the site is reversed, and
an action potential is generated at site B. Thus, the impulse (action potential) generated at site A arrives at site B. The sequence is repeated
along the length of the axon and consequently the impulse is conducted. The rise in the stimulus-induced permeability to Na+ is extremely short- lived. It is quickly followed by a rise in permeability to K+. Within a fraction of a second, K+ diffuses outside the membrane and restores the resting potential of the membrane at the site of excitation and the fibre becomes once more responsive to further stimulation.
Transmission of Impulses
A nerve impulse is transmitted from one neuron to another through junctions called synapses. A synapse is formed by the membranes of a
pre-synaptic neuron and a post-synaptic neuron, which may or may not be separated by a gap called synaptic cleft. There are two types of synapses, namely, electrical synapses and chemical synapses. At electrical.synapses, the membranes of pre- and post-synaptic neurons are in very close proximity. Electrical current can flow directly from one neuron into
the other across these synapses. Transmission of an impulse across electrical synapses is very similar to impulse conduction along a single
axon. Impulse transmission across an electrical synapse is always faster than that across a chemical synapse. Electrical synapses are rare in oursystem.
At a chemical synapse, the membranes of the pre- and post-synaptic neurons are separated by fluid -filled space called synaptic cleft. Do you know how the pre -synaptic neuron transmits an impulse (action potential ) across the synaptic cleft to the post -synaptic neurons? Chemicals called neurotransmitters are involved in the transmission of impulse (action potential ) arrives at the axon terminal, it stimulates the movement of the synaptic vesicles towards the membrane where they fuse with the plasma membrane and releases their neurotransmitters in the synaptic cleft. The released neurotransmitters blind to their specific receptors. Present on the synaptic membrane. This blinding opens ion channels allowing entry of the ions which can generatea new potential in the post .synaptic neuron.the new potential developed may be either excitatory or inhibitory.
CENTRAL NEURAL SYSTEM :
The brain is the central information processing organ of our body, and
acts as the ‘command and control system’. It controls the voluntary
movements, balance of the body, functioning of vital involuntary organs
(e.g., lungs, heart, kidneys, etc.), thermoregulation, hunger and thirst,
circadian (24-hour) rhythms of our body, activities of several endocrine
glands and human behaviour. It is also the site for processing of vision,
hearing, speech, memory, intelligence, emotions and thoughts.
The human brain is well protected by the skull. Inside the skull, the
brain is covered by cranial meninges consisting of an outer layer called
dura mater, a very thin middle layer called arachnoid and an inner layer
(which is in contact with the brain tissue) called pia mater. The brain can
be divided into three major parts: 1. forebrain, 2. midbrain, and 3. hindbrain
The forebrain consists of cerebrum, thalamus and hypothalamus . Cerebrum forms the major part of the human brain. A deep cleft
divides the cerebrum longitudinally into two halves, which are termed as the left and right cerebral hemispheres. The hemispheres are connected by a tract of nerve fibres called corpus callosum. The layer of cells which
covers the cerebral hemisphere is called cerebral cortex and is thrown into prominent folds. The cerebral cortex is referred to as the grey matter due to its greyish appearance. The neuron cell bodies are concentrated here giving the colour. The cerebral cortex contains motor areas, sensory areas and large regions that are neither clearly sensory nor motor in
function. These regions called as the association areas are responsible
for complex functions like intersensory associations, memory and communication. Fibres of the tracts are covered with the myelin sheath, which constitute the inner part of cerebral hemisphere. They give an
opaque white appearance to the layer and, hence, is called the white matter.
The cerebrum wraps around a structure called thalamus, which is a major coordinating centre for sensory and motor signaling. Another very
important part of the brain called hypothalamus lies at the base of the
thalamus. The hypothalamus contains a number of centres which control
body temperature, urge for eating and drinking. It also contains several groups of neurosecretory cells, which secrete hormones called hypothalamic hormones. The inner parts of cerebral hemispheres and a group of associated deep structures like amygdala, hippocampus, etc., form a complex structure called the limbic lobe or limbic system. Along
with the hypothalamus, it is involved in the regulation of sexual behaviour, expression of emotional reactions (e.g., excitement, pleasure, rage and fear), and motivation.
The midbrain is located between the thalamus/hypothalamus of the forebrain and pons of the hindbrain. A canal called the cerebral aqueduct passess through the midbrain. The dorsal portion of the midbrain consists mainly of four round swellings (lobes) called corpora quadrigemina.
Midbrain and hindbrain form the brain stem.
The hindbrain comprises pons, cerebellum and medulla (also called the medulla oblongata). Pons consists of fibre tracts that interconnect different regions of the brain. Cerebellum has very convoluted surface in order to
provide the additional space for many more neurons. The medulla of the brain is connected to the spinal cord. The medulla contains centres which control respiration, cardiovascular reflexes and gastric secretions.
REFLEX ACTION AND REFLEX ARC :
You must have experienced a sudden withdrawal of a body part which
comes in contact with objects that are extremely hot, cold pointed or animals that are scary or poisonous. The entire process of response to a peripheral nervous stimulation, that occurs involuntarily, i.e., without
conscious effort or thought and requires the involvment of a part of the central nervous system is called a reflex action. The reflex pathway comprises at least one afferent neuron (receptor) and one efferent (effector
or excitor) neuron appropriately arranged in a series The afferent neuron receives signal from a sensory organ and transmits the
impulse via a dorsal nerve root into the CNS (at the level of spinal cord). The efferent nueuron then carries signals from CNS to the effector. The stimulus and response thus forms a reflex arc as in the knee jerk reflex.
SECONDARY RECEPTION AND PROCESSING :
Have you ever thought how do you feel the climatic changes in the environment? How do you see an object and its colour? How do you
hear a sound? The sensory organs detect all types of changes in the environment and send appropriate signals to the CNS, where all the inputs are processed and analysed. Signals are then sent to different parts/ centres of the brain. This is how you can sense changes in the environment. In the following sections, you will be introduced to the structure and functioning of the eye (sensory organ for vision) and the ear (sensory organ for hearing).
Our paired eyes are located in sockets of the skull called orbits. A brief account of structure and functions of the human eye is given in the
PARTS OF AN EYE :
The adult human eye ball is nearly a spherical structure. The wall of the eye ball is composed of three layers . The external layer is
composed of a dense connective tissue and is called the sclera. The anterior
portion of this layer is called the cornea. The middle layer, choroid,
contains many blood vessels and looks bluish in colour. The choroid layer
is thin over the posterior two-thirds of the eye ball, but it becomes thick
in the anterior part to form the ciliary body. The ciliary body itself
continues forward to form a pigmented and opaque structure called the
iris which is the visible coloured portion of the eye. The eye ball contains
a transparent crystalline lens which is held in place by ligaments attached
to the ciliary body. In front of the lens, the aperture surrounded by the
iris is called the pupil. The diameter of the pupil is regulated by the muscle
fibres of iris. The inner layer is the retina and it contains three layers of neural cells –
from inside to outside – ganglion cells, bipolar cells and photoreceptor cells.
There are two types of photoreceptor cells, namely, rods and cones. These
cells contain the light-sensitive proteins called the photopigments. The
daylight (photopic) vision and colour vision are functions of cones and
the twilight (scotopic) vision is the function of the rods. The rods contain
a purplish-red protein called the rhodopsin or visual purple, which
contains a derivative of Vitamin A. In the human eye, there are three types
of cones which possess their own characteristic photopigments that
respond to red, green and blue lights. The sensations of different colours
are produced by various combinations of these cones and their photopigments. When these cones are stimulated equally, a sensation of
white light is produced.
The optic nerves leave the eye and the retinal blood vessels enter it at a point medial to and slightly above the posterior pole of the eye ball.
Photoreceptor cells are not present in that region and hence it is called
the blind spot. At the posterior pole of the eye lateral to the blind spot,
there is a yellowish pigmented spot called macula lutea with a central pit
called the fovea. The fovea is a thinned-out portion of the retina where
only the cones are densely packed. It is the point where the visual acuity
(resolution) is the greatest. The space between the cornea and the lens is called the aqueous chamber and contains a thin watery fluid called aqueous humor. The
space between the lens and the retina is called the vitreous chamber
and is filled with a transparent gel called vitreous humor.
MECHANISM OF VISION :
The light rays in visible wavelength focussed on the retina through the
cornea and lens generate potentials (impulses) in rods and cones. As mentioned earlier, the photosensitive compounds (photopigments) in the human eyes is composed of opsin (a protein) and retinal (an aldehyde of A). Light induces dissociation of the retinal from opsin resulting in changes in the structure of the opsin. This causes membrane permeability changes. As a result, potential differences are generated in the photoreceptor cells. This produces a signal that generates action potentials in the ganglion cells through the bipolar cells. These action potentials (impulses) are transmitted by the optic nerves to the visual cortex area of the brain, where the neural impulses are analysed and the
The ears perform two sensory functions, hearing and maintenance of body
balance. Anatomically, the ear can be divided into three major sections called the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The outer ear consists of the pinna and external auditory meatus (canal).
The pinna collects the vibrations in the air which produce sound. The
external auditory meatus leads inwards and extends up to the tympanic
membrane (the ear drum). There are very fine hairs and wax-secreting
glands in the skin of the pinna and the meatus. The tympanic membrane
is composed of connective tissues covered with skin outside and with
mucus membrane inside. The middle ear contains three ossicles called
malleus, incus and stapes which are attached to one another in a chain-
like fashion. The malleus is attached to the tympanic membrane and the
stapes is attached to the oval window of the cochlea. The ear ossicles
increase the efficiency of transmission of sound waves to the inner ear. An
Eustachian tube connects the middle ear cavity with the pharynx. The
Eustachian tube helps in equalising the pressures on either sides of the ear drum.
The fluid-filled inner ear called labyrinth consists of two parts, the
bony and the membranous labyrinths. The bony labyrinth is a series of
channels. Inside these channels lies the membranous labyrinth, which is
surrounded by a fluid called perilymph. The membranous labyrinth is
filled with a fluid called endolymph. The coiled portion of the labyrinth is
called cochlea. The membranes constituting cochlea, the reissner’s and
basilar, divide the surounding perilymph filled bony labyrinth into an upper scala vestibuli and a lower scala tympani The space
within cochlea called scala media is filled with endolymph. At the base of
the cochlea, the scala vestibuli ends at the oval window, while the scala
tympani terminates at the round window which opens to the middle ear.
The organ of corti is a structure located on the basilar membrane
which contains hair cells that act as auditory receptors. The hair cells
are present in rows on the internal side of the organ of corti. The basal
end of the hair cell is in close contact with the afferent nerve fibres. A large
number of processes called stereo cilia are projected from the apical part
of each hair cell. Above the rows of the hair cells is a thin elastic membrane
called tectorial membrane.