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Functions of the spinal cord

The spinal cord provides a means of communication between the brain and the peripheral nerves that leave the cord. When someone touches your hand, sensory receptors generate nerve impulses that pass through sensory fibres to the spinal cord and up the ascending tracts to the brain. When humans involuntarily move their limbs, motor impulses originating in the brain pass down descending tracts to the spinal cord and out to the bodies by way of motor fibres.


The spinal cord is also the centre for thousands of reflex arcs. A stimulus causes sensory receptors to generate nerve impulses that travel in the sensory axons to the spinal cord. This happens in internal organs. For instance, when blood pressure falls, internal receptors in the carotid arteries and aorta generate nerve impulses that pass through sensory fibres to the cord and then up an ascending tract to a cardiovascular centre in the brain.

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