Functions of the Nervous System

The nervous system of the body is made up of many different organs, such as the brain, spinal cord and etc. This highly complex system is responsible for several different activities, such as communicating, coordinating, controlling and regulating. Read on to get an overview of various functions of this important system.


Functions of the Brain

The brain has a jelly like consistency, contains one hundred billion neurons and weighs in around 1.5 kilograms, which allows us to feel emotions and carry out our thought processes. This primary control center is divided into the forebrain, the brainstem and the hindbrain.


Functions of



The forebrain plays a critical role in helping the body carry out a number of vital functions, such as thinking, analyzing, learning and reproducing languages, processing information received from sensory organs, and regulating and coordinating movement and motor functions. The brain processes most of the information received in the cerebral cortex. The thalamus and hypothalamus are also found in the forebrain, which are involved in transmitting information received from sensory organs, motor control and regulating and overseeing autonomic functions.


The midbrain is a part of the brainstem, together with the hindbrain. The midbrain forms the main link between the forebrain and the hindbrain, and controls motor functions, visual and auditory responses.


The hindbrain is the oldest part of the brain and occupies the posterior region. It is made up of several structures, like the pons and the cerebellum, which are responsible for controlling movement, helping the body operate in balance and equilibrium, and transmitting sensory information. The medulla oblongata is also found in the hindbrain that deals with vital autonomic functions of the body, such as digestion, respiration and heart rate.

Functions of the Spinal Cord

The spinal cord is a long, white tube made up of support cells and nervous tissue, extending downwards from the medulla oblongata. The spinal cord is responsible for three main functions: carrying information, coordinating and controlling reflexes.



Carry Information

The spinal cord delivers information to and from the brain. Information from the sensory receptors in the body is taken to the spinal cord via the afferent nerves, which is then sent along to the brain, and information from the brain is delivered to different muscles and glands in the body via efferent fibers.

Coordinate Reflexes

The spinal cord is also capable of coordinating reflexes on its own and is, therefore, responsible for integrative functions and communications.

Control Reflexes

The spinal cord controls reflex actions. Reflex actions are those actions that are sudden, involuntary and automatic response actions, typically exhibited by humans when the survival instinct kicks in or when danger is detected.

Functions of the Automatic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system is a part of the peripheral nervous system, and is also known as the visceral nervous system and involuntary nervous system. It forms one of the many control systems of the body and does not operate at the full level of consciousness. It is divided into the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system.

Functions of


Sympathetic Nervous System

The sympathetic nervous system activates the fight or flight mechanism in a human when he detects danger or is threatened. In this state, a redirection of energy takes place; digestion is put on hold, pupils dilate, the heart rate and breathing rate escalate and there is increased production of saliva and sweat.

Parasympathetic Nervous System

As the parasympathetic nervous system has an opposite effect on the organs, it means that it calms the body down; digestion is started again, pupils contract to their normal size and breathing returns to normal.

Functions of the Somatic Nervous System

The somatic nervous system is a part of the peripheral nervous system and is also known as the voluntary nervous system. It is involved in the control and regulation of voluntary movements via the skeletal muscles and contains efferent nerves, which are associated with muscle contraction. The somatic nervous system consists of spinal nerves, cranial nerves and association nerves.

Functions of


Spine Nerves

Spinal nerves are responsible for the transmission of sensory information into the spinal cord. They are also involved in motor commands and are peripheral nerves.

Cranial Nerves

Cranial nerves are responsible for conducting information, such as smell, vision and taste, to and from the brain stem.

Association Nerves

Association nerves are responsible for associating and coordinating motor output with the sensory input received.

Diseases of the Nervous System

The nervous system is also susceptible to disease and illness, which may have very serious negative repercussions, rendering the individual incapable of performing certain tasks if not treated properly.

Nerve Disorders

The nervous system may experience different kinds of nerve disorders, such as transient ischemic attack (TIA), stroke, extradural hemorrhage, hematoma and subdural hemorrhage, and subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Functional Difficulties

There can also be a number of different functional disabilities that might lead to a serious, crippling state. For example, they may cause Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s chorea, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.


The nervous system is vulnerable to several deadly diseases, such as meningitis. Other infections include polio, encephalitis and epidural abscess.

Structural Disorders

Various kinds of structural disorders can also take place in the nervous system, such as Bell’s palsy, tumors in the brain or spinal cord, injury to the brain or spinal cord, cervical spondylosis, peripheral neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome and Guillan-Barre syndrome.

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