Your nervous system is made up of:
- your central nervous system, or CNS, which includes the brain and spinal cord
- your peripheral nervous system, which consists of nerves that connect your CNS to the rest of your body.
Nerves are made up of cells called neurons. Each neuron has a cell body, an axon and many dendrites.
Dendrites collect information from other cells and pass it to the cell body, while the axon carries messages away from the cell body to other parts of the body.
What does the nervous system do?
Your brain sends messages through your spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system to:
- control the movement of your arms and legs
- control the automatic functions of your body, such as the operations of your heart, your organs and your glands.
The nervous system is also involved in the senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Special nerve cells carry information from your eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin to your brain.
The brain, which is part of the nervous system, carries your thoughts, feelings and emotions, and controls most of the functions of your body, including movement and what you see, hear, feel, taste, smell and say.
Diseases of the nervous system
There are hundreds of conditions that start in or affect the nervous system, including:
- degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
- spinal cord injuries
What can go wrong?
There are many different symptoms that could suggest a problem with the nervous system. They include:
- blurry vision
- behavioural changes
- leg or arm numbness
- loss of coordination
- slurred speech
- emotional problems.
It is important to seek medical help if you have symptoms like these that don’t go away on their own.
Last reviewed: July 2015