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Neural system – motor system voluntary innervations of skeletal muscles

Motor system innervations of skeletal muscles

 The somatic nervous system (SNS) is the part of the peripheral nervous system associated with the voluntary control of body
movements through the action of skeletal muscles, and with the reception of external stimuli, which helps keep the body in touch
with its surroundings (e.g. touch, hearing, and sight)
 The system includes all the neurons connected with skeletal muscles, skin, and sense organs. The somatic nervous system
consists of efferent nerves responsible for sending brain signals for muscle contraction.
 The somatic nervous system processes sensory information and controls all voluntary muscular systems within the body, with
the exception of reflex arcs
 In invertebrates, depending on the neurotransmitter released and the type of receptor it binds, the response in the muscle fiber
could either be excitatory or inhibitory depending on body’s needs. For vertebrates, however, the response of a muscle fiber to a
neurotransmitter, acetylcholine (ACh), can only be excitatory.
 A reflex arc is a neural circuit that creates a more or less automatic link between a sensory input and a specific motor output.
Reflex circuits vary in complexity – the simplest spinal reflexes are mediated by a 3-element chain, beginning with sensory
neurons which activate interneurons in the spinal cord, which then activate motor neurons. Some reflex responses, such as
withdrawing the hand after touching a hot surface, are protective, but others, such as the knee jerk activated by tapping the
patellar tendon, contribute to ordinary behavior.
 The skeletal muscles have ending (insertions) and starting (origins) points. In general, origins are inactive and insertions are
active. So that means insertions are more easily overused and damaged, creating more pain.

The motor pathway

 The corticospinal or pyramidal tract is a collection of axons that travel between the cerebral cortex of the brain and the spinal
cord. The corticospinal tract mostly contains motor axons. It actually consists of 2 separate tracts in the spinal cord: the lateral
corticospinal tract and the medial corticospinal tract. An understanding of these tracts leads to an understanding of why for the
most part, one side of the body is controlled by the opposite side of the brain.
 The corticospinal tract originates from pyramidal cell in layer V of the cerebral cortex. About half of its fibers arise from the
primary motor cortex. Other contributions come from the supplementary motor area, premotor cortex, somatosensory
cortex, parietal lobe, and cingulated gyrus. The average fiber diameter is about 10 μm. Around 3% of the fibers are extra-large
(20 μm), and arise from Betz cells, mostly in the leg area of the primary motor cortex.

The motor neuron cell bodies in the motor cortex, together with their axons that travel down through the brain stem and spinal cord,
are referred to as upper motor neurons.
Decussation and synapses
 The neuronal cell bodies in the motor cortex send long axons to the motor cranial nerve nuclei mainly of the contralateral side of
the midbrain (cortico-mesencephalic tract), pons (cortico-pontine tract), and medulla oblongata (cortico-bulbar tract). The bulk of
these fibers, however, extend all the way down to the spinal cord (corticopinal tract).
 Most of the cortico-spinal fibers (about 80%) cross over to the contralateral side in the medulla oblongata (pyramidal
decussation). Those that cross in the medulla oblongata travel in the lateral corticospinal tract.
 10% enter the lateral corticospinal tract on the same side.
 The remainder of them (10%) cross over at the level where they exit the spinal cord, and travel in the anterior corticospinal
 Whichever or these two tracts it travels in a cortico-spinal axon will synapse with another neuron in the ventral horn. This
ventral horn neuron is considered a second-order neuron in this pathway, but is not part of the corticospinal tract itself.
 All these usually occurs in the internal capsule
 Upper motor neuron problems usually happen before decussation, and lower motor neuron problems, after decussation.
 This can explain why we treat patients’ extremities problem using acupuncture points on the contralateral side
 Acute pain
 Luozheng: search points with fingers for sensitivity, puncture contralaterally, and ask patient to move neck
 Yaotongxue (2 points in each hand): same procedure, and ask patient to move, which will send signal to CNS and stimulate
the cortex, which will make new signals (release neurotransmitters) to send to organs

Cerebral to motor neurons

 The motor axons move closer together as they travel down through the cerebral white matter, and form part of the posterior
limb of the internal capsule
 The motor fibers continue down the brainstem. The bundle of corticospinal axons is visible as 2 column-like structures
(pyramids) on the ventral surface of medulla oblongata. This is where the name, pyramidal tract, comes from.
 After the decussation, the axons travel down the spinal cord as the lateral corticospinal tract. Fibers that do not cross over in the
medulla oblongata travel down the separate anterior corticospinal tract, and most of them cross over to the contralateral side in the
spinal cord, shortly before reaching the lower motor neurons.

Lower motor neurons

 In the spinal cord, the axons of the upper motor neuron connect (most of them via interneurons, but to a lesser extent also via
direct synapses) with the lower motor neurons, located in the ventral horn of the spinal cord.
 In the brain stem, the lower motor neurons are located in the motor cranial nerve nuclei (oculomotor, trochlear, motor
nucleus of the trigeminal nerve, abducens, facial, accessory, hypoglossal). The lower motor neuron axons leave the brain
stem via motor cranial nerves and the spinal cord via anterior roots of the spinal nerves respectively, end up at the
neuromuscular plate and provide motor innervation for voluntary muscles.

Extrapyramidal motor pathways lie outside the corticospinal tract and are beyond voluntary control. Their main function is to support
voluntary movement and help control posture and muscle tone.

Neural system – sensory system

 A sensory system is a part of the nervous system responsible for processing sensory information
 A sensory system consists of sensory receptors, neural pathways, and parts of the brain involved in sensory perception.
Commonly recognized sensory systems are those for vision, hearing, somatic sensation (touch), taste, and olfaction (smell). In
short, senses are transducers from the physical world to the realm of mind.
 The receptive field is the specific part of the world to which a receptor organ and receptor cells respond. For instance, the part of
the world an eye can see is its receptive field, and so is the light that each rod or cone can see. Receptive fields have been
identified for the visual, auditory, and somatosensory systems so far.

 Sensory systems code for 4 aspects of a stimulus: type (modality), intensity, location, and duration. Arrival time of a sound pulse
and phase differences of continuous sound are used for localization of sound sources
 Certain receptors are sensitive to certain types of stimuli (fro example, different mechanoreceptors respond best to different kinds
of touch stimuli, like sharp or blunt objects).
 Receptors send impulses in certain patterns to send information about the intensity of a stimulus (for example, sound volume)
 The location of the receptor stimulated gives the brain information about the location of the stimulus (for example, stimulating a
mechanoreceptor in a finger will send information to the brain about that finger)
 The duration of the stimulus (how long it lasts) is conveyed by firing patterns of receptors

 A stimulus modality (sensory modality) is a type of physical phenomenon that can be sensed (ex: temperature, taste, sound, and
pressure. The type of sensory receptor activated by a stimulus plays the primary role in coding the stimulus modality.
 In the memory-prediction framework, Jeff Hawkins mentions a correspondence between the 6 layers of the cerebral cortex and
the 6 payers of the optic tract of the visual system. The visual cortex has areas labeled V1, V2, V3, V4, V5, MT, IT, etc. Thus
Area V1 is meant to signify only 1 class of cells in the brain, for which there can be many other cells which are also engaged in
 Hawkins lays out a scheme for the analogous modalities of the sensory system. Note that there can be many types of senses. In
particular, for humans, there will be cells which can be labeled as belonging to V1, V2, A1, A2, etc

The human sensory system consists of the following subsystems

 Visual system: vision
 Consists of the photoreceptors, optic nerve, and V1
 Visual Area 1 (V1) is used for vision, via the visual system to the primary visual cortex
 The human eye is the 1st element of a sensory system

 Auditory system (ear): Auditory Area 1 (A1) is for hearing, via the auditory system, the primary auditory cortex
 Somatosensory system consists of the receptors, transmitters (pathways) leading to S1, and S1 that experiences the sensations
labeled as touch and pressure, temperature (warm or cold), pain (including itch and tickle), and the sensations of muscle
movement and joint position including posture, movement, and facial expression (collectively also called proprioception)
 Somatosensory Area 1 (S1) is for touch and proprioception in the somatosensory system
 Feeds the Brodmann Areas 1-3 of the primary somatosensory cortex, but there are also pathways for proprioception (via
the cerebellum) and motor control (via Broadmann Area 4)
 Gustatory system (tongue): Gustatory Area 1 (G1) is used for tasts
 Olfactory system: Olfactory Area 1 (O1) is used for smell. In contrast to vision and hearing, the olfactory bulbs are not cross-
hemispheric: the right bulb connects ot eh right hemisphere and the left bulb connects to the left hemisphere.

Human sensory receptors are chemosensor, mechanoreceptor, nociceptor, photoceptor, and thermoceptor.