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Lab 4 - External and Internal Anatomy of the Spinal Cord

Purpose:

The spinal cord constitutes a vital link between the brain and most of the body. Within it are long tracts of ascending and descending axons that transmit sensory and motor information up and down the neuroaxis. Certain reflexes are controlled by mechanisms within the spinal cord. Damage to the spinal cord can disrupt the flow of information necessary for conscious appreciation of sensory events and voluntary control of limb, trunk, bowel, and bladder movements. Spinal cord trauma due to auto accidents, sports injuries and combat is especially tragic since the affected population is frequently in the prime of life at the time of the trauma, and there is often no other impairment of intellectual and communicative faculties. The secondary effects of the paralysis, e.g., urinary tract infection, may further complicate treatment of these patients.

Objectives:

In part one of today's exercise you will study in detail the gross anatomy of the spinal cord, and will be introduced to the intrinsic organization of the spinal cord. At the end of part one of today's exercise, you should be able to:

  1. Describe the external topography of the spinal cord and the spinal meninges.
  2. Identify, on a microscopic level, the principal spinal cord cell groupings and their functions.
  3. Understand some of the basic principles underlying the organization of the spinal cord.
  4. Identify the major spinal cord fiber tracts and their functions.

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