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  • 1) Identify and name the major parts of the central and autonomic nervous systems

  • 2) Use terms for direction in the nervous system, such as rostral, caudal, dorsal, ventral, along with the cardinal plane directions appropriately when referring to the structures in the CNS

  • 3) Identify the lobes of the cerebral hemispheres, including the landmarks that form their boundaries, and list the main functions for each lobe

  • 4) Identify and relate functional areas of the brain to support future discussions of neural activities and pathologic conditions

  • 5) Identify and describe the general functions of selected subcortical nuclei and white matter structures

  • 6) Identify the main parts of the ventricular system

  • 7) Identify the lobes and functional divisions of the cerebellum and provide a general description of their functions

  • 8) Identify the main parts of the brainstem along with selected nuclei and white matter structures for sensorimotor systems

  • 9) Identify the main gray matter and white matter structures in the spinal cord, including the organization of a typical spinal segment

  • 10) Identify and describe the basic structures and functions of the peripheral and autonomic nervous system


The brain is an amazing structure. With levels of organization ranging from the brain to the spinal cord, white matter to gray, axons to synapses, and at countless other levels, understanding neuroanatomy is a prerequisite to understanding brain function. In this chapter, the reader is introduced to the major parts of the nervous system with relevance for the rehabilitation professional. For this purpose, the focus will be on sensory and motor systems. Structures associated with the special senses, learning, memory and cognition, language, and other systems with strong relevance to physical rehabilitation will be addressed in some detail, with additional coverage in later chapters. However, details of systems in neuroscience such as vision, hormonal regulation, and others are not covered in detail here. For a broader coverage of neuroscience across all systems, the reader is referred to Principles of Neural Science.

Directions and Planes in the Nervous System

In musculoskeletal anatomy, the cardinal plane directions are anterior–posterior, superior–inferior, and medial–lateral. In the nervous system, we can use these same directions. However, because of the way the nervous system curves around from the front of the skull to the back and then turns to descend into the spinal canal, a directional system relative to the nervous system itself, independent of the cardinal planes, is often more useful. Rather than anterior–posterior, it is often more useful to refer to ventral–dorsal directions (Figure 1-1). For the spinal cord in a person standing up, anterior and ventral are equivalent, as are dorsal and posterior. However, in the brain, the top surface of the brain would still be the dorsal side, but this would be superior in the anatomical planes. Likewise, the lower, undersurface of the brain ...

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