Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Your nervous system controls much of what your body does.

Your nervous system controls much of what your body does.
beginning of content

Nervous system

Your nervous system controls much of what your body does. It allows you to do things like walk, speak, swallow, breathe and learn, and controls how your body reacts in an emergency.

Your nervous system is made up of:

  • your central nervous system, or CNS, which consists of 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 (legs) and many dendrites (connections to other cells).

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 thousands of conditions that start in or affect the nervous system, including:

What can go wrong?

There are many different symptoms that could suggest a problem with the nervous system. They include:

  • headaches
  • blurry vision
  • fatigue
  • behavioural changes
  • leg or arm numbness
  • loss of coordination
  • weakness or loss of muscle strength
  • slurred speech
  • tremors
  • emotional problems
  • memory loss.

It is important to seek medical help if you have symptoms like these that don’t go away on their own.

Last reviewed: July 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 547 results

Brain Foundation | Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis Multiple Sclerosis Description Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating disease, which affects the central nervous system

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, neurodegenerative condition that affects the central nervous system (CNS).

Read more on WA Health website

Multiple sclerosis (MS) - myDr.com.au

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system; new immunomodifying treatments have recently become available.

Read more on myDr website

Multiple sclerosis (MS) - Better Health Channel

Multiple sclerosis is not contagious, but it is progressive and unpredictable.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Multiple sclerosis - Lab Tests Online AU

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disorder of the central nervous system characterised by inflammation of the fatty covering of the nerve fibres that join the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The inflammation destroys this covering, the myelin sheath, leaving scar tissue. The affected nerve cells cannot transmit or receive impulses, so there are a variety of effects on muscle function and sensation.

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Multiple Sclerosis

Read more on Queensland Health website

Neuromuscular system

Huntington’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and other disorders.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Types of help - BluePages

Find out where you can get help for yourself or someone you care about.

Read more on e-hub Web Services - Australian National University (ANU) website

It's Not Just Cancer

Palliative care provides support and care for many people with cancer. People living with other diseases are also being offered palliative care services. This may include people who have: Alzheimers' disease, AIDS, Motor Neurone Disease and multiple sclerosis,advanced lung, heart, kidney and liver disease , disabling stroke and other neurological diseases, and dementia.

Read more on CareSearch website

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT)

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is an umbrella term for a range of certain inherited genetic disorders that affect the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system controls our ability to move and feel parts of our body, such as hands and feet. Disorders of the peripheral nerves – the nerves stretching from the spinal cord to the muscles – are known as ‘neuropathies’.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback