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Module 2: The Central Nervous System

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The Human Spinal Cord

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Introduction The Human Spinal Cord
The spinal cord extends inferiorly from the brain.

A cross section of the spinal cord.

The spinal cord is continuous with the brainstem.

Together, the spinal cord and the brainstem are called the neuraxis.

The foramen magnum is taken as the point that divides the brainstem from the spinal cord.

Thus, the brainstem is within the cranial cavity of the skull, and the spinal cord is within the vertebral (spinal) canal of the vertebral column.

Gray Matter
The spinal cord has a central portion known as the gray matter. (gray American spelling)

The gray matter is surrounded by the white matter.

The gray matter is made up of the cell bodies of many different kinds of neurons.

White Matter
The white matter is made up of the processes of neurons.

The white color is due to their myelin sheaths.

These processes serve several purposes:
• Many make a variety of connections within the spinal cord.
• Many ascend the neuraxis to carry information to the brain.
• Many descend the neuraxis to carry commands from the brain.