As humans, it’s easy to take everyday bodily functions for granted, whether it’s taking a walk and enjoying a fresh breeze on your face or thinking about your to-do list over a morning cup of coffee. However, you couldn’t perform any of these functions without your central nervous system (CNS).
Your central nervous system, which is made up of your brain and spinal cord, helps process all of the information that comes from the rest of your body through your peripheral nervous system. After receiving the information, your CNS coordinates how the rest of your body should respond.
This is a highly complex and vulnerable system, so serious problems can develop when injuries or diseases occur, such as brain tumors, spinal tumors, and aneurysms. As a neurosurgeon, Joseph Watson, MD, brings his expertise in the central nervous system to diagnosing and treating these types of problems.
Here’s a closer look at your central nervous system and the types of issues Dr. Watson treats at Cerebrum MD in Tyson’s Corner, Vienna, Virginia.
The spinal cord
Generally speaking, you can think of your spinal cord as a two-way superhighway that carries messages back and forth between your body and brain. However, it also carries out a few additional tasks.
Your spinal cord connects to your brain at the brainstem where 31 spinal nerves enter the cord itself. As the spinal cord travels down your spine, it connects with nerves from your peripheral nervous system all along the way. These connections put your central nervous system in communication with your skin, muscles, and joints.
In addition to carrying messages, your spinal cord also manages basic muscle reflexes and patterns that don’t require your brain’s involvement — such as the involuntary movements you make when you touch something that’s too hot.
You can thank your brain for sorting out all of the information it receives from the rest of your body and coming up with the proper responses, such as helping you change direction if something appears in your path. It also performs highly complex functions, such as feeling, thinking, and remembering. It’s no wonder it’s the most complex organ in the human body.
The human brain contains 100 billion neurons. These highly specialized cells generate and conduct nerve impulses. Your brain uses approximately 20% of your body’s total energy. Not only does it control physical motion, but it also secretes hormones and creates memories and the sensations associated with emotion.
Your brain has numerous sections with dedicated roles that enable it to perform all of these tasks. Some of these areas work together, while others operate independently. For example, there are four lobes in your brain that control specific functions. They are as follows:
- Temporal lobe, which processes sensory input and gives it emotional meaning
- Occipital lobe, which processes visual information
- Parietal lobe, which integrates sensory information and processes language
- Frontal lobe, which is involved in short-term memory, motivation, planning, reward, and attention
In addition to the lobes of your brain, you also have specific regions responsible for certain tasks. For example, in the back of your brain, your cerebellum controls functions, such as coordination, fine muscle control, and balance. And the hypothalamus, which is roughly the size of an almond, secretes neurohormones and influences temperature control, hunger, and thirst.
Conditions that affect the central nervous system
With such dedicated roles to play, numerous issues can arise if disease or injury occurs to any part of the CNS.
Several types of disorders can impact your central nervous system, such as:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Structural defects, which are often present from birth
Dr. Watson treats a full range of brain and spine conditions at Cerebrum MD, and he also remains actively involved in research. He partners with George Washington University in Washington, DC, and George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Both of these institutions study tumor cells removed during surgery to discover their origin and identify new treatments.
In addition to his private practice, Dr. Watson is also the medical director of the Brain Tumor Center of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and is the medical director of neuroscience at Reston Hospital Center.
To learn more about conditions that affect the central nervous system or to schedule a consultation, book an appointment online or over the phone with Cerebrum MD today.