The autobiographical origin of this post is rather involved:
- First, I wanted to understand the medial prefrontal cortex generated emotion.
- Next, I wanted to understand how affective neuroscience interacted with the endocrine system.
- Next, I wanted to understand the interactions between nervous & endocrine systems more generally.
- Finally, I wanted to understand how nervous & endocrine systems together regulate the organism as a whole.
At the end of this adventure, the following concepts stand out to me as particularly significant:
- Thirteen pairs of cranial nerves (CN) complement information derived from the spinal nerves.
- The HP (hypothalamus-pituitary) axes represent neuroendocrine systems, such as the HPA axis (stress), HPT axis (metabolism) and HPG axis (sexuality). These are how the central nervous system drives the endocrine system, despite the blood-brain barrier.
- The autonomic nervous system (i.e., the sympathetic & parasympathetic branches) intertwines with the endocrine system to maintain homeostasis.
- The enteric nervous system (500 million neurons within the gut) is connected to the brain via the vagal nerve (CN 10), but can operate independently.
A few general musings to close:
- Within anatomy, the various bodily systems feel much more studied than their interactions.
- The endocrine and nervous systems seem to control the body at different time scales: nerve control is immediate, hormonal control is long-lasting.
- The distinction between autonomic nervous system & autonomic endocrine system could be used to stiffen a conceptual divide between emotion and mood.
- This process of consolidation of anatomical knowledge has really emphasized, for me, how the neocortex is not the only actor on the stage of my architectural research.
To be continued. This was fun!