How Are the Muscular & Nervous Systems Connected?

Many different body systems work together to perform daily functions in life. The musculoskeletal system and nervous systems work together to produce movement and keep your organs functioning. The muscular system is made up of muscles and tendons, while the nervous system is divided into subsystems — central, peripheral, somatic and autonomic nervous systems.

Tip

The nervous system sends information to the muscular system to produce body movement.

Muscular System Overview

The word "muscle" comes from the Latin word for "little mouse." According to Anatomy Almanac, the reason behind this name choice is unclear. It has been suggested that possibly some muscles look like mice, or maybe movement of muscle under the skin is reminiscent of a mouse under a rug.

The human body contains more than 650 different muscles in three categories, all under the control of the nervous system. Striated, or skeletal, muscles come under conscious, or voluntary, control. Smooth, or visceral, muscles, such as those found in the digestive tract, are connected to organs and perform their work outside of voluntary control. The cardiac muscle has a single specialized function confined to the heart.

Whether under somatic or autonomic control, muscles work in opposing groups, and movement occurs when one part contracts and the other relaxes. For example, when you bend your elbow, your biceps muscle shortens. The triceps muscle on the back of your arm extends your elbow. For you to be able to bend the elbow, the triceps must be relaxed.

Skeletal muscles are attached to bones either directly or indirectly, via tendons, and must rest and re-oxygenate after vigorous exercise. Visceral and cardiac muscles are influenced by exercise, usually positively, and also require a steady supply of fresh oxygen from the blood, but they keep on working nonstop throughout your life.

Nervous System Overview

The nervous system consists of billions of neurons in constant touch with each other for the purpose of monitoring and regulating your internal and sensory functions. The central nervous system, or CNS, includes the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, or PNS, includes all the nerves outside the central nervous system.

The spinal cord behaves like an information superhighway, speeding signals from the brain to the PNS and vice versa. Like the muscular system, the PNS, consisting of all the roads that ultimately lead to the superhighway, has a dual function. One part is somatic, meaning under conscious control, and the other is autonomic, or outside of conscious control.

Nervous System and Muscular System

Actions such as leaning over and picking up a dropped pen involve the coordinated effort of numerous muscle groups. Your conscious mind relays this command to your CNS, which translates it into electrical impulses. These are then channeled through the somatic part of your PNS to the nerves responsible for controlling the necessary muscles.

When the messages arrive, a chemical, acetylcholine, is released from the nerve endings, stimulating the membranes of muscle fibers and causing them to contract. It feels as though this happens instantly, but in fact, it takes about 1 millisecond — 1/1000 of a second. Normally, your conscious mind is unable to speed up or slow down your heart rate, digestion or other visceral muscles because these are regulated autonomically.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Load comments
PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.