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This article describes anatomical terminology that is used to describe the central and peripheral nervous systems - including the brain, brainstem, spinal cord, and nerves.
Neuroanatomy, like other aspects of anatomy, uses specific terminology to describe anatomical structures. This terminology helps ensure that a structure is described accurately, with minimal ambiguity. Terms also help ensure that structures are described consistently, depending on their structure or function. Terms are often derived from Latin and Greek, and like other areas of anatomy are generally standardised based on internationally accepted lexicons such as Terminologia Anatomica.
To help with consistency, humans and other species are assumed when described to be in standard anatomical position , with the body standing erect and facing observer, arms at sides, palms forward.
Anatomical terms of location depend on the location and species that is being described.
To understand the terms used for anatomical localisation, consider an animal with a straight CNS, such as a fish or lizard. In such animals the terms "rostral", "caudal", "ventral" and "dorsal" mean respectively towards the rostrum, towards the tail, towards the belly and towards the back. For a full discussion of those terms, see anatomical terms of location.
For many purposes of anatomical description, positions and directions are relative to the standard anatomical planes and axes. Such reference to the anatomical planes and axes is called the stereotactic approach.
Standard terms used throughout anatomy include anterior / posterior for the front and back of a structure, superior / inferior for above and below, medial / lateral for structures close to and away from the midline respectively, and proximal / distal for structures close to and far away from a set point.
Some terms are used more commonly in neuroanatomy, particularly:
Standard anatomical planes and anatomical axes are used to describe structures in animals. In humans and many other primates the axis of the central nervous system is not straight, but bent to allow for forward vision when the body is vertical. This means that differences in terminology are needed to reflect the differences between the brains of primates and the brains of nearly all other vertebrates. For example, to describe the human brain, "rostral" still means "towards the beak or snout (Latin rostrum)", or at any rate, the interior of the cranial cavity just behind the face. "Caudal" means "towards the tail (Latin cauda"), but not "towards the back of the cranial cavity", which is "posterior" (behind, in ordinary motion). The rostro-caudal axis of the human central nervous system (magenta in the diagram) makes a near 90° bend at the level of the midbrain and continues through the brain-stem and spinal cord. In human anatomy, the occipital lobes and the back of the head are posterior but not caudal to the frontal lobes and the face.
"Superior" and "inferior" are adjectives from human anatomy, respectively meaning towards to top of the head or the soles of the feet when standing. The brain is superior to the spinal cord in people, but in quadrupeds the brain is anterior (forward in motion) to the spinal cord.
"Dorsal" means "in the direction away from the ridge of the human back or its equivalent in other animals. In human neuroanatomy the word is somewhat distorted, becoming synonymous with "superior" in the forebrain. i.e. in the direction of the roof of the cranial cavity"cranial cavity and thence to the body. "Ventral" in the central nervous system also refers to the rostro-caudal axis, which changes within the head.
These three axes of the human brain match the three planes within which they lie, even though the terms for the planes have not been changed from the terms for the bodily planes. The most commonly used reference planes are:
Specific terms are used for peripheral nerves that originate from, or arrive at, a specific point.
An afferent nerve fiber is a fibre originating at the present point. For example, a striatal afferent is an afferent originating at the striatum.
An efferent nerve fiber is one that arrives at the present point. For example, a cortical efferent is a fibre coming from elsewhere, and arriving to the cortex. Note that that is the opposite of the direction in which the nerve fibre conducts signals.
Specific terms are also used to describe the route of a nerve or nerve fibre:
A chiasm (from Greek , meaning ' Chi ') is used to describe different types of crossings of or within peripheral nerve fibres between the cerebral hemispheres. The major example in the human brain is the Optic chiasm.
A decussation (from Latin , meaning 'from 'deca', 10, which is written as a capital X') refers to nerve fibers that cross the sagittal plane from one side of the central nervous system to the other, and connect different brain regions. There are two kinds:
The first type is known also for invertebrates, whereas the second type only occurs in vertebrates. The second type is thought to be due to an axial twist.
A commissure is a bilateral connection of axons connecting the left and right side of the same brain region. For example, nerve fibre tracts that cross between the two cerebral hemispheres, are the anterior commissure, posterior commissure, corpus callosum, hippocampal commissure, and habenular commissure. The spinal cord contains a commissure as well: the anterior white commissure.
A ganglion can also have the form of crossing nerves, but a ganglion always contains synapses between neurons as well as their cell bodies. The other kinds of nerve crossings never contain synapses of cell bodies of neurons.
The difference between a chiasm and a decussation is that the first refers to peripheral nerves whereas the latter refers to crossings inside central nervous system. A commissure connects the same brain region of each side whereas a decussation connects different brain regions.
Specific terms are used to represent the gross anatomy of the brain:
A gyrus is an outward folding of the brain, for example the precentral gyrus. A sulcus is an inward fold, or valley in the brain's surface - for example the central sulcus. Additional terms used to describe these may include:
A fissure is used to describe:
|Look up fundus in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Specific acronyms are used to represent imaging. Some common acronyms include MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CT (Computed tomography).
The optic chiasm, or optic chiasma, is the part of the brain where the optic nerves cross. It is located at the bottom of the brain immediately inferior to the hypothalamus. The optic chiasm is found in all vertebrates, although in cyclostomes, it is located within the brain.
Standard anatomical terms of location deal unambiguously with the anatomy of animals, including humans.
The medulla oblongata or simply medulla is a long stem-like structure which makes up part of the brainstem. It is anterior and partially inferior to the cerebellum. It is a cone-shaped neuronal mass responsible for autonomic (involuntary) functions ranging from vomiting to sneezing. The medulla contains the cardiac, respiratory, vomiting and vasomotor centers and therefore deals with the autonomic functions of breathing, heart rate and blood pressure as well as the sleep wake cycle.
Articles related to anatomy include:
The brainstem is the posterior part of the brain, continuous with the spinal cord. In the human brain the brainstem includes the midbrain, the pons and medulla oblongata of the hindbrain. The midbrain continues with the thalamus of the diencephalon through the tentorial notch, and sometimes the diencephalon is included in the brainstem.
The oculomotor nerve is the third cranial nerve. It enters the orbit via the superior orbital fissure and innervates extrinsic eye muscles that enable most movements of the eye and that raise the eyelid. The nerve also contains fibers that innervate the intrinsic eye muscles that enable pupillary constriction and accommodation. The oculomotor nerve is derived from the basal plate of the embryonic midbrain. Cranial nerves IV and VI also participate in control of eye movement.
The third ventricle is one of four connected fluid-filled cavities comprising the ventricular system within the mammalian brain. It is a median cleft in the diencephalon between the two thalami, and is filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
The midbrain or mesencephalon is the forward-most portion of the brainstem and is associated with vision, hearing, motor control, sleep and wakefulness, arousal (alertness), and temperature regulation. The name come from the Greek mesos, "middle", and enkephalos, "brain")
The spinothalamic tract is a sensory pathway to the thalamus. From the ventral posterolateral nucleus in the thalamus, sensory information is relayed upward to the somatosensory cortex of the postcentral gyrus.
The spinocerebellar tract is a nerve tract originating in the spinal cord and terminating in the same side (ipsilateral) of the cerebellum.
The subarachnoid cisterns are spaces formed by openings in the subarachnoid space, an anatomic space in the meninges of the brain. The space separates two of the meninges, the arachnoid mater and the pia mater. These cisterns are filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
In the human brain, the superior cerebellar peduncle is a paired structure of white matter that connects the cerebellum to the midbrain. It consists mainly of efferent fibers, the cerebellothalamic tract that runs from a cerebellar hemisphere to the contralateral thalamus, and the cerebellorubral tract that runs from a cerebellar hemisphere to the red nucleus. It also contains afferent tracts, most prominent of which is the ventral spinocerebellar tract. Other afferent tracts are the trigeminothalamic fibers, tectocerebellar fibers, and noradrenergic fibers from the locus coeruleus. The superior peduncle emerges from the upper and medial parts of the white matter of each hemisphere and is placed under cover of the upper part of the cerebellum.
Decussation is used in biological contexts to describe a crossing. In Latin anatomical terms, the form decussatio is used, e.g. decussatio pyramidum.
The anterior white commissure is a bundle of nerve fibers which cross the midline of the spinal cord just anterior to the gray commissure. A delta fibers and C fibers carrying pain sensation in the spinothalamic tract contribute to this commissure, as do fibers of the anterior corticospinal tract, which carry motor signals from the primary motor cortex.
The spinal cord is a long, thin, tubular structure made up of nervous tissue, which extends from the medulla oblongata in the brainstem to the lumbar region of the vertebral column. It encloses the central canal of the spinal cord, which contains cerebrospinal fluid. The brain and spinal cord together make up the central nervous system (CNS). In humans, the spinal cord begins at the occipital bone, passing through the foramen magnum and entering the spinal canal at the beginning of the cervical vertebrae. The spinal cord extends down to between the first and second lumbar vertebrae, where it ends. The enclosing bony vertebral column protects the relatively shorter spinal cord. It is around 45 cm (18 in) in men and around 43 cm (17 in) long in women. The diameter of the spinal cord ranges from 13 mm in the cervical and lumbar regions to 6.4 mm in the thoracic area.
A nerve tract is a bundle of nerve fibers (axons) connecting nuclei of the central nervous system. In the peripheral nervous system this is known as a nerve, and has associated connective tissue. The main nerve tracts in the central nervous system are of three types: association fibers, commissural fibers, and projection fibers. A tract may also be referred to as a commissure, fasciculus or decussation. A commissure connects the two cerebral hemispheres at the same levels. Examples are the posterior commissure and the corpus callosum. A decussation is a connection made by fibres that cross at different levels (obliquely), such as the sensory decussation. Examples of a fascicle are the subthalamic fasciculus and the lenticular fasciculus.
An anatomical plane is a hypothetical plane used to transect the body, in order to describe the location of structures or the direction of movements. In human and animal anatomy, three principal planes are used:
Anatomical terminology is a form of scientific terminology used by anatomists, zoologists, and health professionals such as doctors.
In anatomy a chiasm is the spot where two structures cross, forming an X-shape. This can be: