Central nervous system

The central nervous system is composed of the brain and the spinal cord. Along with the peripheral nervous system, the central nervous system controls and regulates all bodily functions and sensations.

The brain is divided into hemispheres and made up of three primary divisions — the forebrain, the midbrain and the hindbrain — along with the brain stem. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve tissue and cells that extends from the brain and down the back to the second lumbar vertebra. The bundle of nerve roots that extend beyond the bottom of the spinal cord, called the cauda equina, reaches the organs in the lower torso, legs and feet.

Role of the central nervous system

The central nervous system works with the peripheral nervous system to send and receive information in the form of electrical impulses to and from different regions of the body. Some functions are voluntary, such as wiggling your toes or turning your head. Other functions are involuntary, such as digestion and the heartbeat. Other functions can be either voluntary or involuntary, such as breathing or blinking.

The central nervous system has three major components:

  • Sensory system — sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste
  • Motor system — voluntary and involuntary movement
  • Homeostasis and higher brain functions — thought, speech, sleeping, waking, perspiration, and emotions, among others

Issues affecting the nerves

The central nervous system is vulnerable to an enormous range of potential disorders, the study of which is called neurology. Among the issues neurologists deal with are spinal cord injury and other conditions that lead to compression or irritation of spinal nerve roots. Herniated discs, bulging discs, degenerative disc disease, arthritis and other spine conditions can interfere with the central nervous system and produce debilitating neck or back pain. Nerve compression can also result in tingling, numbness and muscle weakness that can radiate to the extremities. The symptoms of these spinal conditions can often be managed conservatively, using physical therapy or pain medications.

Surgery can become an option for chronic neck or back pain when conservative treatments don’t bring relief after weeks or months. Laser Spine Institute offers an alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures with minimally invasive spine surgery performed on an outpatient basis. The smaller, muscle-sparing incision used by our surgeons leads to a shorter recovery period§ and reduces the risk of complications compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.

Contact Laser Spine Institute for your no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine procedures.