Spinal cord

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The spinal cord is a long, thin, tubular bundle of nervous tissue and support cells that extends from the brain (the medulla oblongata specifically). The brain and spinal cord together make up the central nervous system. The spinal cord begins at the Occipital bone and extends down to the space between the first and second lumbar vertebrae; it does not extend the entire length of the vertebral column. It is around 45 cm (18 in) in men and around 43 cm (17 in) long in women. Also, the spinal cord has a varying width, ranging from 1/2 inch thick in the cervical and lumbar regions to 1/4 inch thick in the thoracic area. The enclosing bony vertebral column protects the relatively shorter spinal cord. The spinal cord functions primarily in the transmission of neural signals between the brain and the rest of the body but also contains neural circuits that can independently control numerous reflexes and central pattern generators. The spinal cord has three major functions: A. Serve as a conduit for motor information, which travels down the spinal cord. B. Serve as a conduit for sensory information, which travels up the spinal cord. C. Serve as a center for coordinating certain reflexes. [1]

Contents

Structure

The spinal cord is the main pathway for information connecting the brain and peripheral nervous system. The length of the spinal cord is much shorter than the length of the bony spinal column. The human spinal cord extends from the medulla oblongata and continues through the conus medullaris near the first or second lumbar vertebra, terminating in a fibrous extension known as the filum terminale.

It is about 45 cm (18 in) long in men and around 43 cm (17 in) in women, ovoid-shaped, and is enlarged in the cervical and lumbar regions. The cervical enlargement, located from C4 to T1, is where sensory input comes from and motor output goes to the arms. The lumbar enlargement, located between T9 and T12, handles sensory input and motor output coming from and going to the legs. You should notice that the name is somewhat misleading. However, this region of the cord does indeed have branches that extend to the lumbar region.

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