Lecture: The Nervous Systems
Reading Assignment 6:
Peripheral and Central Nervous Systems (pp.70-87)
Click for Objective Reading Assignment 6

The sixth reading assignment introduces students to two major subdivisions of the Nervous System and all that they both entail.

The Peripheral Nervous System
The first major subdivision, the Peripheral Nervous System, has two subdivisions within itself that serves to control and regulate different types of muscles throughout the body. Its two subdivisions are the Somatic Nervous System and the Autonomic Nervous System. The two types of muscles that the Peripheral Nervous System assigned these two subdivisions to control and regulate are the “smooth muscles” and “striated muscles” found in the body. Smooth muscles have smooth surfaces and textures regardless of the state that they are in. A person’s eyelids and lungs are considered smooth muscles. Striated muscles, on the other hand, have a ripped and textured surface, and when tense they can have a very rigid texture to them. A person’s biceps and triceps are examples of Striated Muscles.
Perhaps in poor taste, however, I encourage students to refer to the Autonomic Nervous System as the “Automatic Nervous System.” This is because the smooth muscles, that it regulates tend to operate automatically and involuntarily (e.g., respiration through the lungs and our heart beat). To facilitate an understanding of the two subdivisions of the Autonomic Nervous System, it is important to express how inter related they are. They both serve to control many of the same smooth muscles throughout the body, depending on the state of the individual. If in a heightened state of arousal, the Sympathetic Nervous System essentially “sympathizes” with the current state of stress and “kicks in” to regulate one’s smooth muscles in a way to best serve the person. If in a calm state, the Parasympathetic Nervous System regulates those same smooth muscles in a way that best suits the person given those circumstances.

The Central Nervous System
The second of the two major subdivisions is made-up of two components of anatomy : the Brain and Spinal Cord. These two components make up the Central Nervous System (CNS). The Spinal Cord, like all other aspects of the human body, is made up of Neurons. These neurons are located inside the Spine, and referred to as Spinal Tracts. Researchers have stated that Spinal Tracts have the added benefit of producing Spinal Reflexes that come in handy for an organism to avoid danger in their environment. The Brain, a marvel in its own right, is made up of over a 100 billion Neurons. The three major subdivisions of the Brain are the Hindbrain, Midbrain, and Forebrain. Each of these subdivisions serves different functions and are responsible for different aspects of human functioning. The Hindbrain is the most primitive of the three subdivisions, while the Forebrain is responsible for many of the higher level processes and skills that make us uniquely human.

The Quiz
This reading assignment, unfortunately, is one of the author’s least favorite. I enjoy that the majority of what is covered in an introductory course Psychology, as it can easily be related to everyday life. The content of this reading assignment is an exception to that rule. The aforementioned concepts are best suited for memorization. Recognizing this, the review of this content is immediately followed by an in-class quiz. Content on the quiz will not be on the exam; as a result, the exam will consist of content that can be readily applied to real-world situations.



A. Wilson, J. F. (2003). Biological Foundations of Human Behavior (Instructors Ed.). Thomson, Inc.
B. Klein, S. B. (2000). Biological Psychology. Prentice Hall, Inc.
C. Lefton, L. A. & Brannon, L. (2003). Psychology (Eighth Ed.). Allyn & Bacon: Pearson Educ., Inc.

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