The Brain, Spinal Cord, Peripheral Nerves, and The Autonomic Nervous System-A Practical Explanation


Putting it all together to help patients understand how they could potentially be in a position to detect the earliest signs of  illnesses, retarding advanced stages of diseases, and to partner with a health care provider—-

In fact, the medical interview starts by assessing the Brain’s function through: Alertness and Orientation to Person, Place, Time, and Situation.

Proper alertness and orientation allow the health-care provider to assess symptoms and signs through direct-communication with the patient.

What CONTROLS our action, reaction, behavior, MEMORY, ability to speak and interpret WORDS/LANGUAGE,write/draw, ability to hear, see, taste, feel pain/soft touch/pressure/position in space/balance, ability to respond, move, emotion, sleep/wake cycle, AND ABILITY TO THINK or REASON or do other COMPLEX task, i.e.higher cortical functions which separate human beings from other lower intelligent or intelligible ANIMALS—–

The Central and Peripheral NERVOUS SYSTEM!!!!


When all is said and done, only about 10% of the human brain function-capability is known.  We know more about the peripheral nervous system, because it is simpler to study without causing significant and sustainable harm to the human being, as opposed to the single, most IMPORTANT ORGAN—-THE BRAIN.

Life can not be sustained without a HUMAN BRAIN!!

We suggest for further reading that one considers a simple anatomy and physiology textbook to learn about the Central and Peripheral Nervous System. But in simplest terms, consider the brain as a CENTRAL STATION for processing a variety of Information.  In this Central station, there are different types of departments known as, NUCLEI comprised of neurons, with specific locations in the brain that have been mapped out (see image above).  For further simplicity, consider the peripheral nerves as highways and byways transporting various information to the central station, where the SPINAL CORD is the MAIN Transportation HUB or thoroughfare.  And, Finally, for even more simplicity, consider the medulla, pons, and midbrain, basal ganglia, hypothalamus, thalamus, Cerebellum as special relay stations to route certain electrical traffic to its final destination, where also throughout this electrical highway/transmission, there are negative and positive relay stations that use certain neurotransmitters to either stop, slow down, or speed up the electrical signals.   Remember, the Peripheral and Central Nervous system FUNCTIONS by either converting light, sound, as well as chemical reactions into electrical impulses or simply allowing direct electrical impulse to flow to the CENTRAL PROCESSING STATION—- THE BRAIN .

The Autonomic Nervous System creates a direct rapid transit system for FIGHT OR FLIGHT response through the parasympathetic and sympathetic routes, as well as in regulating SENSATION, MOTOR and other RESPONSE ACTIVITIES at the Local Position for INTERNAL ORGANS.  The parasympathetic and sympathetic electrical transmissions are carried out under involuntary conditions through glanglia and nerve-root complexes located along the spine or near internal organs in chest, abdomen, and pelvis, as well as nuclei within the brain or ganglia for select cranial nerves (2,5,7,9,10).  The autonomic tracts, for example, are key components in the CHRONIC PAIN SYNDROME, and why often times certain centrally acting medication, surgery, and/or nerve block therapy may be REQUIRED to relieve intense, long-lasting and ongoing PAIN, that interferes with normal daily functional activity!

Let’s List the Diseases of the Central and Peripheral Nervous System, which often times ARE SECONDARY TO OTHER PROBLEMS,

and can be PREVENTED!

1. Cerebral Vascular Accident (STROKE) due to lack of flow of adequate blood to the brain as caused by arterial disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc, or Bleeding in Brain, due to Trauma or an abnormal clotting system

2. INFECTIONS such as bacterial meningitis, viral encephalitis, parasites, prion disease, etc

3. Tumors, often times are metastatic, i.e. spreading from other primary organs, with Primary Brain tumors representing less than 1% of all Tumors.

4. Dementia, related to primary degenerative changes of the brain, where electrical activities of dendrites, axons, and neurons are less effective in transmitting electrical impulses for needed communication, and active response, as due primarily to the aging phenomenon.

5. Delirium, related to chemical toxicity to the brain, often due to other failing systems not primary to the Nervous System.

6. NON-infectious, INFLAMMATORY diseases of the Nervous System, where often times the immune system develops inflammation to its own neural tissues, and causes severe destruction of neural tissues, such as in Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Demyelinating Neuropathy, etc.

Simply observing warning signs of the brain’s activity, and seeking appropriate timely help, as well as maintaining acceptable control of Chronic Diseases such as CHRONIC PAIN SYNDROME,  High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, and other metabolic diseases

could drastically reduce Nervous System Diseases

Medication and It’s Effects on The Autonomic (Involuntary) Nervous System:

The Autonomic Nervous System essentially functions through the initiation of Alpha and Beta Receptors located in various parts of the body, and the principle activation of these receptors  is typically mediated by Norepinephrine and Epinephrine, which are hormones produced by cells of the adrenal glands.  These hormones cause the Alpha or Beta Receptors to be activated to generated nerve conduction, electrical impulse through the peripheral nerves regulated by the Autonomic Nervous system.  Such functions that are critical to this system include but not limited to diseases such as: Diabetes, High blood Pressure, certain endocrine diseases, and many others.  Certain or Select Chemical Medications are used to inhibit, stimulate, or simply modulate these diseases by regulating the autonomic response, that if went unchecked could lead to failing human organ systems, and in certain instances, depression and death.  Close monitoring of medications that alter the functions of the Autonomic Nervous System IS REQUIRED.


A 63 year old patient, obese, with chronic diseases including uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes, suffered a cerebral vascular accident (CVA-stroke), 12 years ago, which caused deficit of movement on one part of the patient’s body.  The Patient was placed on “blood thinning medication,” and while on this medication, suffered a seizure.  The patient was subsequently placed on ventilator because of difficult to sustain adequate oxygenation, and breathing drive, and now is bed confined.  Let’s choose to PREVENT Cerebral Vascular accident through appropriately controlling chronic diseases such as diabetes (HbA!c needs to be less than 6) and high blood pressure (Systolic pressure less than 160, and diastolic pressure less than 90), which has proven to drastically reduce CVA.

MDC remains committed to keeping our patients informed for better quality and safe preventable medical care!



Written By: Dr. Jackson Gates

Dr. Jackson L. Gates, MD serves as our Founder & President of Medical Diagnostic Choices. He has personally diagnosed, treated, and reviewed well over 100,000 combined, clinical and laboratory medicine cases over his community-based medical practice career.

October 7, 2014

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