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UPSC Biology Skeletal System Muscle Skeletal and Neural System

Muscle Skeletal and Neural System

Category : UPSC

Muscle Skeletal and Neural System


1.           Muscle and Skeletal


  • Muscle is a specialised tissue of mesodermal origin. About \[40-50\]per cent of the body weight of a human adult is contributed by muscles. They have special properties like excitability, contractility, extensibility and elasticity.
  • Muscles have been classified using different criteria, namely location, appearance and nature of regulation of their activities.
  • Based on their location, three types of muscles are identified-Skeletal, Visceral and Cardiac.
  • Skeletal muscles are closely associated with the skeletal components of the body. They have a striped appearance under the microscope and hence are called striated muscles. As their activities are under the voluntary control of the nervous system, they are known as voluntary muscles too. They are primarily involved in locomotory actions and changes of body postures.
  • Visceral muscles are located in the inner walls of hollow visceral organs of the body like the alimentary canal, reproductive tract, etc. They do not exhibit any striation and are smooth in appearance. Hence, they are called smooth muscles (nonstriated muscle). Their activities are not under the voluntary control of the nervous system and are therefore known as Avoluntary muscles. They assist, for example, in the transportation of food through the digestive tract and gametes through the genital tract.
  • Cardiac muscles are the muscles of heart. Many cardiac muscle cells assemble in a branching pattern to form a cardiac muscle. Based on appearance, cardiac muscles are striated. They are involuntary in nature as the nervous system does not control their activities directly.
  • Skeletal system consists of a framework of bones and a few cartilages. This system has a significant role in movement shown by the body. Imagine chewing food without jaw bones and walking around without the limb bones. Bone and cartilage are specialized connective tissues.
  • The former has a very hard matrix due to calcium salts in it and the latter has slightly pliable matrix due to chondroitin salts.
  • In human beings, this system is made up of 206 bones and a few cartilages. It is grouped into two principal divisions - the axial and the appendicular skeleton.
  • Axial skeleton comprises 80 bones distributed along the main axis of the body. The skull, vertebral column, sternum and ribs constitute axial skeleton. The skull is composed of two sets of bones - cranial and facial, that totals to 22 bones.
  • Cranial bones are 8 in number. They form the hard protective outer covering, cranium for the brain. The facial region is made up of 14 skeletal elements which form the front part of the skull.
  • A single U-shaped bone called hyoid is present at the base of the buccal cavity and it is also included in the skull.
  • Each middle ear contains three tiny bones - Malleus, Incus and Stapes, collectively called Ear Ossicles.
  • The skull region articulates with the superior region of the vertebral column with the help of two occipital condyles (dicondylic skull).
  • Our vertebral column is formed by 26 serially arranged units called vertebrae and is dorsally placed. It extends from the base of the skull and constitutes the main framework of the trunk. Each vertebra has a central hollow portion (neural canal) through which the spinal cord passes. First vertebra is the atlas and it articulates with the occipital condyles.
  • The vertebral column is differentiated into cervical (7), thoracic (12), lumbar (5), sacral (1-fused) and coccygeal (1-fused) regions starting from the skull. The number of cervical vertebrae are seven in almost all mammals including human beings. The vertebral column protects the spinal cord, supports the head and serves as the point of attachment for the ribs and musculature of the back. Sternum is a flat bone on the ventral midline of thorax.
  • There are 12 pairs of ribs. Each rib is a thin flat bone connected dorsally to the vertebral column and ventrally to the sternum. It has two articulation surfaces on its dorsal end and is hence called bicephalic. First seven pairs of ribs are called true ribs.
  • The bones of the limbs alongwith their girdles constitute the appendicular skeleton. Each limb is made of 30 bones. The bones of the hand (fore limb) are humerus, radius and ulna, carpals (wrist bones - 8 in number), metacarpals (palm bones - 5 in number) and phalanges (digits - 14 in number). Femur (thigh bone - the longest bone), tibia and fibula, tarsals (ankle bones - 7 in number), metatarsals (5 in number) and phalanges (digits – 14 in number) are the bones of the legs (hind limb). A cup shaped bone called patella cover the knee ventrally (knee cap).
  • Pectoral and Pelvic girdle bones help in the articulation of the upper and the lower limbs respectively with the axial skeleton. Each girdle is formed of two halves. Each half of pectoral girdle consists of a clavicle and a scapula. Scapula is a large triangular flat bone situated in the dorsal part of the thorax between the second and the seventh ribs.
  • The dorsal, flat, triangular body of scapula has a slightly elevated ridge called the spine which projects as a flat, expanded process called the acromion. The clavicle articulates with this. Below the acromion is a depression called the glenoid cavity which articulates with the head of the humerus to form the shoulder joint. Each clavicle is a long slender bone with two curvatures. This bone is commonly called the collar bone.
  • Pelvic girdle consists of two coxal bones. Each coxal bone is formed by the fusion of three bones - ilium, ischium and pubis.
  • Myasthenia gravis: Auto immune disorder affecting neuromuscular junction leading to fatigue, weakening and paralysis of skeletal muscle.
  • Muscular dystrophy: Progressive degeneration of skeletal muscle mostly due to genetic disorder.
  • Tetany: Rapid spasms (wild contractions) in muscle due to low \[C{{a}^{++}}\] in body fluid.
  • Arthritis: Inflammation of joints.
  • Osteoporosis: Age-related disorder characterised by decreased bone mass and increased chances of fractures. Decreased levels of estrogen is a common cause.
  • Gout: Inflammation of joints due to accumulation of uric acid crystals.


2.           Neural System and Brain


  • The human neural system is divided into two parts: the central neural system (CNS), the peripheral neural system (PNS).
  • The CNS includes the brain and the spinal cord and is the site of information processing and control. The PNS comprises of all the nerves of the body associated with the CNS (brain and spinal cord). The nerve fibres of the PNS are of two types: afferent fibres and efferent fibres.
  • The afferent nerve fibres transmit impulses from tissues/organs to the CNS and the efferent fibres transmit regulatory impulses from the CNS to the concerned peripheral tissues/organs.
  • The PNS is divided into two divisions called somatic neural system and autonomic neural system. The somatic neural system relays impulses from the CNS to skeletal muscles while the autonomic neural system transmits impulses from the CNS to the involuntary organs and smooth muscles of the body. The autonomic neural system is farther classified into sympathetic neural system and parasympathetic neural system.
  • The brain is the central information processing organ of our body, and acts as the 'command and control system'. It controls the voluntary movements, balance of the body, functioning of vital involuntary organs (e.g., lungs, heart, kidneys, etc.), thermoregulation, hunger and thirst, circadian (24-hour) rhythms of our body, activities of several endocrine glands and human behaviour. It is also the site for processing of vision, hearing, speech, memory, intelligence, emotions and thoughts.
  • The brain can be divided into three major parts: forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain.
  • The forebrain consists of cerebrum, thalamus and hypothalamus. Cerebrum forms the major part of the human brain.
  • The hypothalamus contains a number of centres which control body temperature, urge for eating and drinking. It also contains several groups of neurosecretory cells, which secrete hormones called hypothalamic hormones.
  • The midbrain is located between the thalamus/hypothalamus of the forebrain and pons of the hindbrain.
  • The hindbrain comprises pons, cerebellum and medulla (also called the medulla oblongata). Pons consists of fibre tracts that interconnect different regions of the brain. Cerebellum has very convoluted surface in order to provide the additional space for many more neurons. The medulla of the brain is connected to the spinal cord. The medulla contains centres which control respiration, cardiovascular reflexes and gastric secretions.
  • If we experienced a sudden withdrawal of a body part which comes in contact with objects that are extremely hot, cold pointed or animals that are scary or poisonous. The entire process of response to a peripheral nervous stimulation, that occurs involuntarily, i.e., without conscious effort or thought and requires the involvment of a part of the central nervous system is called a reflex action.
  • The reflex pathway comprises at least one afferent neuron (receptor) and one efferent (effector or excitor) neuron appropriately arranged in a series. The afferent neuron receives signal from a sensory organ and transmits the impulse via a dorsal nerve root into the CNS (at the level of spinal cord). The efferent nueuron then carries signals from CNS to the effector. The stimulus and response thus forms a reflex arc.

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