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Central nervous system

The term central nervous system refers to the brain, spinal cord, and spinal nerves. The Central nervous system plays a crucial role, helping all the parts of the body to communicate with each other. Using both electrical and chemical means, it sends and receives messages and reacts to changes both outside and inside the body.

The key component of the central nervous system is the brain. Even though it only makes up two per cent of the body's weight, it is the driving force of the whole body. This soft, jelly-like organ has billions of neural cross-connections, the basic building blocks of which are cells called neurones.

Unlike other cells in the body, neurones aren't replaced if they die or are damaged by infection or injury. Connected to the brain is the spinal cord, which runs the length of the body. It is protected by the bones of the spine (vertebrae), and has numerous nerves branching off of into the arms, legs and torso.

This is a fragile network, prone to injury and illness. Common problems can include:

  • Epilepsy - a condition characterised by storms of electrical activity in the brain that cause seizures.
  • Meningitis - this is caused by inflammation of the membrane covering the brain.
  • Multiple sclerosis - the myelin sheaths protecting the neurones are destroyed, leading to a host of symptoms.
  • Parkinson's disease - symptoms of this include shaking and problems with movement.
  • Sciatica - the name for a host of low back problems, often caused by pressure on a nerve from a slipped disc or arthritis of the spine.
  • Shingles - a viral infection of sensory nerves.
  • Stroke - loss of brain function as a result of lack of blood to part of the brain.

While there is no one way to protect yourself from all of these conditions, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with regular exercise, a good diet, and a minimum of stress, will reduce your risk.




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