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Alcohol consumption effects on the nervous system (I)

In order to understand the complexed phenomena that take place at the central nervous system's level, let's look over its structural schema.

For a better understanding and with a didactic purpose, I decide to present the nervous system in two, main categories which are also devided in two subcategories.

Central nervous system contains the brain and the spinal cord.

Peripheral nervous system consists the nerves that connect different areas of the brains to the spinal cord and different body parts.

The somatic nervous system colects information from the tegument and muscle receptors about the external stimuli and send them to the central nervous system (this explains why we feel pain, physical pressure and temperature variation). The somatic nervous system motor nerves send the impulses from the central nervous system to the muscles causing the voluntary movement, and allows the body to maintain its equilibrium and adjust its posture.

Vegetative nervous system sends the nervous impulses from or to the internal organs, controlling the breathing and digestive process, and cardiac activity.

The human brain consist in 3 concentric layers:

The internal layer contains: rachidian bulb that controls the breathing process and postural reflexes; cerebellum that controls the motor activity; thalamus - the relay station of the sensorial information that comes from the sensorial level; hypothalamus,that plays an important role in controling the emotions and homeostasis: and reticular system, which crosses some of the structures mentioned above, and controls the wakefulness state and body excitability.
The limbic system together with the hypothalamus controls some of the instinctual activities such as feeding, aggression, running from danger, and choosing the sexual partner; This nervous structure plays also an important role in the memory and attention process.
The external layer called the cerebral cortex is formed from two cerebral hemispheres. It plays a significant role in several processes like sensorial, decision taking, learning and thinking process. The cortex contains the central centers of the analyzators and association areas, and controls the specific movements.

The base unit of the nervous system is a specialized cell called the neuron.

The neuron body is formed from short extensions called dendrites and a long, unique extension called axon. When the dendrites or neuronal body is stimulated, a nervous impulse forms which is send out through the axon. The sensitive neurons send the received signals from the sensory organs to the cerebral segments of the nervous system, while the motor neurons send out the signals from the nervous system to the muscles and endocrine glands.

A nerve is formed from the axonal fibers of hundreds or even thousands of neurons, and contains sensitive and motor fibers.

At the neuron level, the information is send out in one direction as a biochemical impulse (called nervous impulse or action potential) from the dendrites to the end of the axon. The action potential is caused by a self-programmed mechanism called depolarization. According to this mechanism, the cellular membrane permeability changes for different types of ions (atoms or electrical molecule) that enter and leave the cell.

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