last updated:

Feb 27, 2021

[Brain Image]    

PSY 340 Brain and Behavior

Class 10: Structure of the Vertebrate Nervous System  OUTLINE


Structure of the Vertebrate Nervous System

[Comparison of Animal

A. Terminology to Describe the Nervous System

Human Nervous SystemVisible
            Human Head & Torso 

Central Nervous System (CNS)

  • Brain
  • Spinal Cord  

Peripheral Nervous System (CNS)

Any nerve that does not belong to the CNS 

  • Somatic Nervous System (SNS)
  • Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

Directions in the Nervous System

   Planes of view
            of cerebral cortex

[Directions in CNS]


Rostral from ROSTRUM - A bird's beak [& the prow of a ship]

Dorsal from DORSUM - An animal or person's back

Ventral from VENTER - The belly or abdomen

    • A ventriloquist speaks from the belly.

Caudal from CAUDA - The tail of a horse

    • The origin of the word, coward, since one sees the tail of the horse when a horse rider flees from battle
Superior is ABOVE while Inferior is BELOW
is NEAR while Distal is FAR
Ipsilateral occurs on the same side
Contralateral occurs on the other side


  • Lamina (laminae, pl.)
  • Column
  • Tract (Projection)
  • Nucleus (nuclei, pl.)
  • Ganglion (ganglia, pl.)
  • Gyrus (gyri, pl.)
  • Sulcus (sulci, pl.)
  • Fissure

[Spinal Cord]B. The Spinal Cord

Bell-Magendie law

C. Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

[OTC Cold Medicines]1. Sympathetic Nervous System

The sympathetic branch of the ANS prepares the body for action: fight or flight.

2. Parasympathetic Nervous System

The parasympathetic branch of the ANS helps to restore the body, build up energy & supplies needed in the future, and relax.

Drugs & the ANS

The Brain: Divisions

  • Hindbrain
  • Midbrain
  • Forebrain
    • Thalamus
    • Hypothalamus & Pituitary Gland
    • Basal Ganglia
    • Basal Forebrain
    • Hippocampus
    • Cerebral Cortex (in the next class)


Anterior & Posterior Cerebellum

[Chase Britton]

Britton Missing Cerebellum

Chase with Older Brother 2019

Medulla (oblongata)

Pons (the "bridge")

  • Ascending reticular formation/ascending reticular activating system
    • Raphe system: major serotonin system
Cerebellum ("little cerebrum" or "little brain" with ca. 70 billion neurons)
  • Movement & balance
  • Time-related behaviors (rhythm, drum playing)
  • Simple learning & conditioning
  • NEW: role in cognition, language, & affect (emotion)
  • Anterior: motor & movement
  • Posterior: cognition, language, affect
  • Rapid model building of body interacting with the world around it

Chase Britton - Boy Without a Cerebellum (and Pons)
YouTube Video

Update (9/17/2013): Chase is now 6 years old, has begun 1st grade (he was in kindergarten 2012-13), plays with his older brother Alex on his iPad, can count to 30, reads short words, and has a service lab/Great Dane dog named "Missa".

Update (8/14/14): Chase attended and met with Lady Antebellum at the Erie County Fair this year

Updates in Dec. 2019 & May 2020. Chase is now 12-13 years old, uses both a wheelchair and a special walker. His father, David E. Britton, unfortunately died of stomach cancer at age 50 in May, 2020.

Chinese Woman, 24, found to lack cerebellum (2014)

In what seems to be only the 9th documented case, a 24-year-old woman in China went to the hospital complaining of a headache and was found to have been born without a cerebellum.

No Cerebellum
                          (Feng Yu et al., 2014)

Feng Yu et al. (2014)

45-year-old man in India found to lack cerebellum (2018)

cerebellar agenesis omair 2018



  • Superior Colliculus ("upper little hill")
  • Inferior Colliculus ("lower little hill")

Tegmentum ("floor covering" or "rug")

Substantia Nigra ("dark substance")


Outer surface = Cortex (Latin = Bark of tree) [in next class]

Limbic System (linked set of structures beneath the cortex including olfactory bulb, hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, & cingulate gyrus)

Thalamus ("antechamber")

Hypothalamus ("beneath the thalamus")

Pituitary Gland

Basal Ganglia

  • caudate nucleus, putamen, globus pallidus
  • Basal Forebrain

    • nucleus basilis

    Hippocampus ("sea horse")

    Lobes of the Cerebral Cortex - Covered in next class


    •  cerebrospinal fluid [CSF]
      • shock absorber or cushion
      • support for the weight
      • CSF is formed by the choroid plexus
      • meninges




    Visible Human images from <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/research/visible/vhpconf98/>

    This page was first posted February 6, 2005