What Are the Four Functions of the Nervous System?

Nervoussystem ColiN00B/Pixabay

The nervous system is perhaps the most important part of the body. The roles it serves are crucial for perceiving and responding to the world around us. Our nervous systems allow our body to respond to stimuli and coordinate important bodily functions.

Parts of the Nervous System

The nervous system consists of the brain, organs used to provide sensory information, spinal cord and all the nerves that connect them. Each part of the nervous system is responsible for providing some level of control over the body. The nervous system is made of two groups: the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system

The central nervous system, also known as the CNS, includes both the spinal cord and the brain. They are the control center of the body. These are the parts of the body in which you make decisions and evaluate the world.

The peripheral nervous system, or PNS, consists of sensory nerves and organs in the body. This part of the nervous system monitors the world around you and then sends information to the brain.

Sensory Function

The sensory function of the nervous system is the part that gathers information about both the world around you and the inside of the body. The nervous system collects the data and then interprets it in a way that the brain can understand and respond. For example, the eyes are one of the most important sensory organs. The eyes take in light and convert it into electrical signals that travel to the brain and create an image. Other sensations the body perceives and interprets include taste, smell, touch, and hearing. The nervous system also senses the body’s internal environment, though you may not be consciously aware of it.

Communicative Function

Communication is another crucial feature of the nervous system. Without the communicative function of the nervous system, the brain and spinal cord would miss out on important information coming from the sensory organs. For example, the nerves in your hand may experience a reaction when you place your hand on a hot burner, but without communicating the pain to your brain, you might not know to pull your hand away and prevent further burning.

Integrative Function

Information is processed via the nervous system’s integrative functioning. Integration occurs when a stimulus is sent to the area in which the information is processed. Stimuli may be compared with other stimuli, perhaps those that occur at the same time or memories of those past. This means that an individual can respond to a stimulus based on experience.

Motor Function

The nervous system also serves a motor purpose that results after the nervous system responds to perceived stimuli. The motor function creates the response to the stimuli, often in the form of contracting muscles. Some forms of response are voluntary, and some are completely involuntary, like a reflex. For example, it's the motor function of the nervous system that causes you to pull your hand away from a hot stove or to jump out of the way of a moving vehicle.