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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • List the components of the basic processing stream for the motor system
  • Describe the pathway of descending motor commands from the cortex to the skeletal muscles
  • Compare different descending pathways, both by structure and function
  • Explain the initiation of movement from the neurological connections
  • Describe several reflex arcs and their functional roles

The defining characteristic of the somatic nervous system is that it controls skeletal muscles. Somatic senses inform the nervous system about the external environment, but the response to that is through voluntary muscle movement. The term “voluntary” suggests that there is a conscious decision to make a movement. However, some aspects of the somatic system use voluntary muscles without conscious control. One example is the ability of our breathing to switch to unconscious control while we are focused on another task. However, the muscles that are responsible for the basic process of breathing are also utilized for speech, which is entirely voluntary.

Cortical responses

Let’s start with sensory stimuli that have been registered through receptor cells and the information relayed to the CNS along ascending pathways. In the cerebral cortex, the initial processing of sensory perception progresses to associative processing and then integration in multimodal areas of cortex. These levels of processing can lead to the incorporation of sensory perceptions into memory, but more importantly, they lead to a response. The completion of cortical processing through the primary, associative, and integrative sensory areas initiates a similar progression of motor processing, usually in different cortical areas.

Whereas the sensory cortical areas are located in the occipital, temporal, and parietal lobes, motor functions are largely controlled by the frontal lobe. The most anterior regions of the frontal lobe—the prefrontal areas—are important for executive functions    , which are those cognitive functions that lead to goal-directed behaviors. These higher cognitive processes include working memory    , which has been called a “mental scratch pad,” that can help organize and represent information that is not in the immediate environment. The prefrontal lobe is responsible for aspects of attention, such as inhibiting distracting thoughts and actions so that a person can focus on a goal and direct behavior toward achieving that goal.

The functions of the prefrontal cortex are integral to the personality of an individual, because it is largely responsible for what a person intends to do and how they accomplish those plans. A famous case of damage to the prefrontal cortex is that of Phineas Gage, dating back to 1848. He was a railroad worker who had a metal spike impale his prefrontal cortex ( [link] ). He survived the accident, but according to second-hand accounts, his personality changed drastically. Friends described him as no longer acting like himself. Whereas he was a hardworking, amiable man before the accident, he turned into an irritable, temperamental, and lazy man after the accident. Many of the accounts of his change may have been inflated in the retelling, and some behavior was likely attributable to alcohol used as a pain medication. However, the accounts suggest that some aspects of his personality did change. Also, there is new evidence that though his life changed dramatically, he was able to become a functioning stagecoach driver, suggesting that the brain has the ability to recover even from major trauma such as this.

Questions & Answers

all of the following substance move in in and out of cell except
Mohd Reply
all of the following substance move in and out of cells except
Mohd
Which signaling molecule is most likely responsible for an increase in digestive activity?
Tonya Reply
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libim
Homeostatasis return to the body to a healthy state after a stressful stimuli by producing
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There are some people suffering serious injured what will we do in doing X-ray?
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anabolism simply means building up while catabolism breaking down
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odeh
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Tharshana Reply
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how conversion of Beta-carotiene into vitamin-A takes place
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best reference books for anatomy pls suggest that
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what is gross anatomy
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The study of large structure of the body
Mablean
macroscopic anatomy (Gross anatomy)
odeh
manipulation of structures without aid of microscope due to their size
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a bag of skin near the penis which contains the testicles
Mablean
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Why are you on my digits
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Kryme
it is part if male organ that hold testis in position it also regulates temperature
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how does it work?
Uriah Reply
I want to know the fertilization process in human
Nana Reply
Which plane divides the body into right and left parts
Kaeze
sagittal plane
Irvin
Thank you
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Homestatic regulations usually involves a (n) _ that detects a particular stimulus, and a(n) _that respond to the stimulus by communicating with a (n) _whose activity has an effect on the same stimulus.
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Haemophilia
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Diabetes insipidus or diabetes mellitus would most likely be indicated by ________.
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George
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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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