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Central Nervous System: The main information-processing organs of the nervous system, consisting of the brain, spinal cord, and meninges.

What is a Nervous System?

JoVE 10838

The nervous system is the collection of specialized cells responsible for maintaining an organism’s internal environment and coordinating the interaction of an organism with the external world—from the control of essential functions such as heart rate and breathing to the movement needed to escape danger.

The vertebrate nervous system is divided into two major parts: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS includes the brain, spinal cord, and retina—the sensory tissue of the visual system. The PNS contains the sensory receptor cells for all of the other sensory systems—such as the touch receptors in the skin—as well as the nerves that carry information between the CNS and the rest of the body. Additionally, part of both the CNS and PNS contribute to the autonomic nervous system (also known as the visceral motor system). The autonomic nervous system controls smooth muscles, cardiac muscles, and glands that govern involuntary actions, such as digestion. The vertebrate brain is primarily divided into the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brainstem. The cerebrum is the largest, most anterior part of the brain that is divided into left and right hemispheres. Each hemisphere is further divided into four lobes: frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal. The outermost layer of the cerebrum is called

 Core: Biology

The Sympathetic Nervous System

JoVE 10840

The sympathetic nervous system—one of the two major divisions of the autonomic nervous system—is activated in times of stress. It prepares the body to meet the challenges of a demanding circumstance while inhibiting essential body functions—such as digestion—that are a lower priority at the moment.

As a student, you may have had the experience of walking into class and finding a surprise exam that you were not expecting. In the moment of realization, you may sense your gut tighten, your mouth goes dry, and your heart starts to race all of a sudden. These are signs of the sympathetic system taking over in preparation to react. While you may not be in immediate danger, the system has evolved to facilitate immediate reaction to stress or threats: blood is directed away from the digestive system and skin to increase energy supplies to muscles. Furthermore, the heart rate, and blood flow increase, and pupils dilate to maximize visual perception. At the same time, the adrenal gland releases epinephrine into the circulatory system. Your body is now primed to take action, whether that means to swiftly flee from danger or fight whatever threat may be at hand. The sympathetic nervous system can be activated by various parts of the brain, with the hypothalamus playing a particularly important role. Sympathetic instructions from the central

 Core: Biology

In vivo Optogenetic Stimulation of the Rodent Central Nervous System

1Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 2Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University, 3Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 4Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, 5Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

JoVE 51483


Glial Cells

JoVE 10843

Glial cells are one of the two main types of cells in the nervous system. Glia cells comprise astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia, and ependymal cells in the central nervous system, and satellite and Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system. These cells do not communicate via electrical signals like neurons do, but they contribute to virtually every other aspect of nervous system function. In humans, the number of glial cells is roughly equal to the number of neurons in the brain. Glia in the central nervous system (CNS) include astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia, and ependymal cells. Astrocytes are the most abundant type of glial cell and are found in organized, non-overlapping patterns throughout the brain, where they closely associate with neurons and capillaries. Astrocytes play numerous roles in brain function, including regulating blood flow and metabolic processes, synaptic ion and pH homeostasis, and blood-brain barrier maintenance. Another specialized glial cell, the oligodendrocyte, forms the myelin sheath that surrounds neuronal axons in the CNS. Oligodendrocytes extend long cellular processes that wrap around axons multiple times to form this coating. Myelin sheath is required for proper conduction of neuronal signaling and greatly increases the speed at which these messages travel. Microglia—known as the macrop

 Core: Biology

What is a Sensory System?

JoVE 10849

Sensory systems detect stimuli—such as light and sound waves—and transduce them into neural signals that can be interpreted by the nervous system. In addition to external stimuli detected by the senses, some sensory systems detect internal stimuli—such as the proprioceptors in muscles and tendons that send feedback about limb position.

Sensory systems include the visual, auditory, gustatory (taste), olfactory (smell), somatosensory (touch, pain, temperature, and proprioception), and vestibular (balance, spatial orientation) systems. All sensory systems have receptor cells that are specialized to detect a particular type of stimulus. For example, hair cells in the inner ear have cilia that move in the presence of sound waves, while olfactory receptor neurons in the nasal cavity have receptors that bind to odorant molecules. The presence of an appropriate stimulus triggers electrochemical changes in the nervous system. This stimulus typically changes the membrane potential of a sensory neuron, triggering an action potential. The information is then transmitted from the sensory organ to the spinal cord and then the brain, or directly to the brain (as in the visual system). The different types of sensory information—also called modalities—travel in different pathways through the central nervous system, but most

 Core: Biology

What is the Skeletal System?

JoVE 10863

The adult human skeleton comprises 206 bones that are connected through cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. The skeleton provides a rigid framework for the human body, protects internal organs, and enables movement and locomotion. The human skeletal system consists of the axial and appendicular skeletons. Bone tissue is continuously built up and chewed away by specialized bone cells which are essential to overall health. Dysregulated bone cells and incorrect levels of chemical compounds in the blood lead to bone diseases. The axial skeleton consists of 80 bones and is divided into three regions: the skull, the vertebral column, and the rib cage. The upper portion of the skull—the cranium—consists of eight bones that enclose the brain, while the lower part consists of 14 bones. The vertebral column consists of 33 vertebrae: seven cervical, 12 thoracic, five lumbar, five fused sacral vertebrae, and four fused coccygeal vertebrae. The rib cage adds stability to the vertebral column and also protects the lungs and heart. It consists of 12 pairs of ribs, which attach to the thoracic vertebra via the costovertebral joint. The anterior portion of the rib cage attaches to the sternum—the flat bone at the center of the front of the chest—via the costal cartilages. The first seven ribs on each side are known as true ribs, as their cartilages

 Core: Biology


JoVE 10910

Neurulation is the embryological process which forms the precursors of the central nervous system and occurs after gastrulation has established the three primary cell layers of the embryo: ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. In humans, the majority of this system is formed via primary neurulation, in which the central portion of the ectoderm—originally appearing as a flat sheet of cells—folds upwards and inwards, sealing off to form a hollow neural tube. As development proceeds, the anterior portion of the neural tube will give rise to the brain, with the rest forming the spinal cord. The central portion of the ectoderm that bends to generate the neural tube is aptly called the neural ectoderm, while the areas that flank it—along the periphery of the embryo—are the surface ectoderm. However, at the junction of the neural and surface ectoderm lies another population of cells, called the neural crest. As the neural folds (the edges of the elevating neural tube) begin to appear, neural crest cells (NCCs) can be visualized in their tips through the expression of characteristic markers, like the Pax7 transcription factor. As development proceeds and the neural folds fuse, NCCs can be observed either in the top-most portion of the neural tube or migrating along this structure’s sides towards lower regions of the embryo. To migrate, N

 Core: Biology

Neural Regulation

JoVE 10835

Digestion begins with a cephalic phase that prepares the digestive system to receive food. When our brain processes visual or olfactory information about food, it triggers impulses in the cranial nerves innervating the salivary glands and stomach to prepare for food.

The cephalic phase is a conditioned or learned response to familiar foods. Our appetite or desire for a particular food modifies the preparatory responses directed by the brain. Individuals may produce more saliva and stomach rumblings in anticipation of apple pie than of broccoli. Appetite and desire are products of the hypothalamus and amygdala—brain areas associated with visceral processes and emotion. After the cephalic phase, digestion is governed by the enteric nervous system (ENS) as an unconditioned reflex. Individuals do not have to learn how to digest food; it happens regardless of whether it is apple pie or broccoli. The ENS is unique in that it functions (mostly) independent of the brain. About 90% of the communication are messages sent from the ENS to the brain rather than the other way around. These messages give the brain information about satiety, nausea, or bloating. The ENS, as part of the peripheral nervous system, is also unique in that it contains both motor and sensory neurons. For example, the ENS directs smooth muscle movements that churn and propel food al

 Core: Biology

An Introduction to Developmental Neurobiology

JoVE 5207

Developmental neuroscience is a field that explores how the nervous system is formed, from early embryonic stages through adulthood. Although it is known that neural progenitor cells follow predictable stages of proliferation, differentiation, migration, and maturation, the mechanisms controlling the progression through each stage are incompletely understood. Studying…


Explant Culture of Neural Tissue

JoVE 5209

The intricate structure of the vertebrate nervous system arises from a complex series of events involving cell differentiation, cell migration, and changes in cell morphology. Studying these processes is essential to our understanding of nervous system function as well as our ability to diagnose and treat disorders that result from abnormal development. However, neural…


The Blood-brain Barrier

JoVE 10841

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) refers to the specialized vasculature that provides the brain with nutrients in the blood while strictly regulating the movement of ions, molecules, pathogens, and other substances. It is composed of tightly linked endothelial cells on one side and astrocyte projections on the other. Together they provide a semipermeable barrier that protects the brain and poses unique challenges to the delivery of therapeutics. The BBB is made up of a variety of cellular components, including endothelial cells and astrocytes. These cells share a common basement membrane and together regulate the passage of components between the circulation and the interstitial fluid surrounding the brain. The first type of cellular component, specialized endothelial cells, make up the walls of the cerebral capillaries. They are connected by extremely tight and complex intercellular junctions. These junctions create a selective physical barrier, preventing simple diffusion of most substances, including average to large-sized molecules such as glucose and insulin. A second cell type, astrocytes, are a type of glial cell of the central nervous system which influences endothelial cell function, blood flow, and ion balance in the brain through interaction and close association with cerebral vasculature. They provide a direct link between the vasculature

 Core: Biology

The Spinal Cord

JoVE 10872

The spinal cord is the body’s major nerve tract of the central nervous system, communicating afferent sensory information from the periphery to the brain and efferent motor information from the brain to the body. The human spinal cord extends from the hole at the base of the skull, or foramen magnum, to the level of the first or second lumbar vertebra.

The spinal cord is cylindrical and contains both white and grey matter. In the center is the central canal, which is the remnant of the lumen of the primitive neural tube and is part of the internal system of cerebrospinal fluid cavities. In cross-section, the grey matter surrounding the central canal appears butterfly-shaped. The wings of the butterfly are divided into dorsal and ventral horns. The dorsal horn contains sensory nuclei that relay sensory information, and the ventral horn contains motor neurons that give rise to the axons that innervate skeletal muscle. White matter surrounds the gray matter and contains large numbers of myelinated fibers. The white matter is arranged into longitudinal bundles called dorsal, lateral, and ventral columns. Three membranes surround the spinal cord: the pia adheres closely to the surface of the spinal cord, followed by the arachnoid, and the dura mater—the tough outermost sheath. The spinal cord is divided into four different r

 Core: Biology


JoVE 10852

The sense of smell is achieved through the activities of the olfactory system. It starts when an airborne odorant enters the nasal cavity and reaches olfactory epithelium (OE). The OE is protected by a thin layer of mucus, which also serves the purpose of dissolving more complex compounds into simpler chemical odorants. The size of the OE and the density of sensory neurons varies among species; in humans, the OE is only about 9-10 cm2. The olfactory receptors are embedded in the cilia of the olfactory sensory neurons. Each neuron expresses only one type of olfactory receptor. However, each type of olfactory receptor is broadly tuned and can bind to multiple different odorants. For example, if receptor A binds to odorants 1 and 2, receptor B may bind to odorants 2 and 3, while receptor C binds to odorants 1 and 3. Thus, the detection and identification of an odor depend on the combination of olfactory receptors that recognize the odor; this is called combinatorial diversity. Olfactory sensory neurons are bipolar cells with a single long axon that sends olfactory information up to the olfactory bulb (OB). The OB is a part of the brain that is separated from the nasal cavity by the cribriform plate. Because of this convenient proximity between the nose and brain, the development of nasal drug applications is widely studied, especially in cases

 Core: Biology

Cranial Nerves Exam I (I-VI)

JoVE 10091

Source:Tracey A. Milligan, MD; Tamara B. Kaplan, MD; Neurology, Brigham and Women's/Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

During each section of the neurological testing, the examiner uses the powers of observation to assess the patient. In some cases, cranial nerve dysfunction is readily apparent: a patient might…

 Physical Examinations III


JoVE 10906

In human women, oogenesis produces one mature egg cell or ovum for every precursor cell that enters meiosis. This process differs in two unique ways from the equivalent procedure of spermatogenesis in males. First, meiotic divisions during oogenesis are asymmetric, meaning that a large oocyte (containing most of the cytoplasm) and minor polar body are produced as a result of meiosis I, and again following meiosis II. Since only oocytes will go on to form embryos if fertilized, this unequal distribution of cell contents ensures that there are enough cytoplasm and nutrients to nourish the early stages of development. Second, during oogenesis, meiosis “arrests” at two distinct points: once during embryonic growth and a second time during puberty. In mammals, oocytes are suspended in prophase I until sexual maturation, at which point meiosis I continues under hormonal influence until an egg precursor cell is released into a fallopian tube. At ovulation, the precursor exits the ovary and, only if fertilization occurs, is stimulated to complete meiosis II and form a complete egg. Defects during oogenesis can result in severe consequences. In particular, problems with chromosome segregation during either meiosis I or meiosis II may lead to an embryo being aneuploid, meaning that it contains an abnormal number of chromosomes. Increased age elevates a woman

 Core: Biology

Motor Units

JoVE 10871

A motor unit consists of two main components: a single efferent motor neuron (i.e., a neuron that carries impulses away from the central nervous system) and all of the muscle fibers it innervates. The motor neuron may innervate multiple muscle fibers, which are single cells, but only one motor neuron innervates a single muscle fiber.

Lower motor neurons are efferent neurons that control skeletal muscle, the most abundant type of muscle in the body. The cell bodies of lower motor neurons are located in the spinal cord or brain stem. Those in the brainstem transmit nerve signals through the cranial nerve, and primarily control muscles in the head and neck. Lower motor neurons originating in the spinal cord send signals along the spinal nerve, and primarily control muscles in the limbs and body trunk. A lower motor neuron fires an action potential that, at once, contract all skeletal muscle cells that the neuron innervates. Thus, motor units are functional units of skeletal muscle. The size of a motor unit, or the number of muscle fibers the lower motor neuron innervates, varies depending on the size of the muscle and the speed and precision the movement requires. Muscles in the eyes and fingers, which require rapid, precise control, are generally controlled by small motor units. In these units, motor neurons connect to a small number of muscle f

 Core: Biology

Long-term Depression

JoVE 10847

Long-term depression, or LTD, is one of the ways by which synaptic plasticity—changes in the strength of chemical synapses—can occur in the brain. LTD is the process of synaptic weakening that occurs over time between pre and postsynaptic neuronal connections. The synaptic weakening of LTD works in opposition to synaptic strengthening by long-term potentiation (LTP) and together are the main mechanisms that underlie learning and memory. If over time, all synapses are maximally strengthened through LTP or some other mechanism, the brain would plateau in efficiency making learning and forming new memories difficult. LTD is a way to prune weaker synapses thereby freeing up resources and putting flexibility back into the central nervous system. One mechanism by which LTD occurs depends on the number of calcium ions in the postsynaptic neuron after presynaptic stimulation. Infrequent or low levels of presynaptic stimulation lead to low calcium ion influx and consequently, low calcium ion concentration in the postsynaptic neuron. The low calcium ion concentration initiates a signaling cascade that culminates in the endocytosis or removal of α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) glutamate receptors from the plasma membrane. As a result, the postsynaptic response to the same sporadic presynaptic stimulation is further wea

 Core: Biology

Compound Administration III

JoVE 10215

Source: Kay Stewart, RVT, RLATG, CMAR; Valerie A. Schroeder, RVT, RLATG. University of Notre Dame, IN

There are many commonly used routes for compound administration in laboratory mice and rats. However, certain protocols may require the use of less commonly used routes, including intradermal, intranasal, and intracranial injections.…

 Lab Animal Research

Balance and Coordination Testing

JoVE 5423

Balance and coordination are critical components involved in the control of movement. Many sensory receptors and neural processing units are required to help individuals maintain balance while performing various activities. Deficits in balance and coordination occur in patients suffering from movement disorders or due to aging. Therefore, scientists are trying to understand the…

 Behavioral Science

Visualization of Knee Joint Degeneration after Non-invasive ACL Injury in Rats

JoVE 10477

Source: Lindsey K. Lepley1,2, Steven M. Davi1, Timothy A. Butterfield3,4 and Sina Shahbazmohamadi5,

1Department of Kinesiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT; 2Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT; 3Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Kentucky,…

 Biomedical Engineering

Detecting Reactive Oxygen Species

JoVE 5654

Reactive oxygen species are chemically active, oxygen-derived molecules capable of oxidizing other molecules. Because of their reactive nature, there are many deleterious effects associated with unchecked ROS production, including structural damage to DNA and other biological molecules. However, ROS can also be mediators of physiological signaling. There is accumulating…

 Cell Biology

Tissue Regeneration with Somatic Stem Cells

JoVE 5339

Somatic or adult stem cells, like embryonic stem cells, are capable of self-renewal but demonstrate a restricted differentiation potential. Nonetheless, these cells are crucial to homeostatic processes and play an important role in tissue repair. By studying and manipulating this cell population, scientist may be able to develop new regenerative therapies for injuries and diseases.

 Developmental Biology

An Introduction to Stem Cell Biology

JoVE 5331

Cells that can differentiate into a variety of cell types, known as stem cells, are at the center of one of the most exciting fields of science today. Stem cell biologists are working to understand the basic mechanisms that regulate how these cells function. These researchers are also interested in harnessing the remarkable potential of stem cells to treat human diseases.


 Developmental Biology

Development and Reproduction of the Laboratory Mouse

JoVE 5159

Successful breeding of the laboratory mouse (Mus musculus) is critical to the establishment and maintenance of a productive animal colony. Additionally, mouse embryos are frequently studied to answer questions about developmental processes. A wide variety of genetic tools now exist for regulating gene expression during mouse embryonic and postnatal development, which can help…

 Biology II

Drosophila Development and Reproduction

JoVE 5093

One of the many reasons that make Drosophila an extremely valuable organism is that the molecular, cellular, and genetic foundations of development are highly conserved between flies and higher eukaryotes such as humans. Drosophila progress through several developmental stages in a process known as the life cycle and each stage provides a unique platform for developmental…

 Biology I

Three-dimensional Tissue Engineered Aligned Astrocyte Networks to Recapitulate Developmental Mechanisms and Facilitate Nervous System Regeneration

1Center for Brain Injury & Repair, Department of Neurosurgery, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 2Center for Neurotrauma, Neurodegeneration & Restoration, Michael J. Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 3School of Biomedical Engineering, Drexel University, 4Department of Bioengineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, 5Neuroscience Graduate Group, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

JoVE 55848


Anatomically Inspired Three-dimensional Micro-tissue Engineered Neural Networks for Nervous System Reconstruction, Modulation, and Modeling

1Department of Bioengineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Pennsylvania, 2Center for Brain Injury & Repair, Department of Neurosurgery, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3Center for Neurotrauma, Neurodegeneration & Restoration, Michael J. Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 4School of Biomedical Engineering, Drexel University

JoVE 55609


Determining Immune System Suppression versus CNS Protection for Pharmacological Interventions in Autoimmune Demyelination

1Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2Department of Pathology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 3Department of Neurobiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 4Center for Glial Biology and Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham

JoVE 54348

 Immunology and Infection

A Brain Tumor/Organotypic Slice Co-culture System for Studying Tumor Microenvironment and Targeted Drug Therapies

1Department of Cancer Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 2Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital, 3Department of Biostatistics & Computational Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 4Department of Developmental Biology and Cancer Research, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 5Department of Neurosurgery, Children's Hospital, 6Center for Molecular Oncologic Pathology, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

JoVE 53304


Induction of Paralysis and Visual System Injury in Mice by T Cells Specific for Neuromyelitis Optica Autoantigen Aquaporin-4

1Department of Neurology, University of California, 2Program in Immunology, University of California, 3Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University, 4Department of Pathology, Stanford University

JoVE 56185

 Immunology and Infection

Implementation of a Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering (CARS) System on a Ti:Sapphire and OPO Laser Based Standard Laser Scanning Microscope

1INSERM U1051, Institut des Neurosciences de Montpellier (INM), Université de Montpellier, 2Université de Nîmes, 3CNRS, IES, UMR 5214, 4Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, École Centrale Marseille, Institut Fresnel, UMR 7249, 5Montpellier RIO Imaging (MRI)

JoVE 54262


Automated Slide Scanning and Segmentation in Fluorescently-labeled Tissues Using a Widefield High-content Analysis System

1Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute, University of Calgary, 2Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, 3Department of Oncology, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary

JoVE 57440


An Enzyme- and Serum-free Neural Stem Cell Culture Model for EMT Investigation Suited for Drug Discovery

1Dept. of Biomedicine, Pharmacenter, University of Basel, 2Molecular Signalling and Gene Therapy, Narayana Nethralaya Foundation, Narayana Health City, 3Brain Ischemia and Regeneration, Department of Biomedicine, University Hospital Basel, 4Department of Neurosurgery, Klinikum Idar-Oberstein, 5Department of Neurosurgery and Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Stanford University, 6Department of Neurology, Laboratory of Molecular Neuro Oncology, University Hospital of Zurich

JoVE 54018

 Developmental Biology

In Vitro Recording of Mesenteric Afferent Nerve Activity in Mouse Jejunal and Colonic Segments

1Laboratory of Experimental Medicine and Pediatrics, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Antwerp, 2Visceral Pain Group, Discipline of Medicine, University of Adelaide, 3Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Sheffield, 4Department of Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Postgraduate Medicine, University of Hertfordshire, 5Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Antwerp University Hospital

JoVE 54576


Lentiviral Vector Platform for the Efficient Delivery of Epigenome-editing Tools into Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived Disease Models

1Department of Neurology, Duke University Medical Center, 2Center for Genomic and Computational Biology, Duke University Medical Center, 3Viral Vector Core, Duke University Medical Center, 4Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Duke University Medical Center

JoVE 59241

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