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Studying for a test? Prepare with these 14 lessons on Human anatomy and physiology.
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Voiceover: In this video, I'm going to talk about the somatosensory tracts. Somatosensory, which are the senses of the body, and tracts, which are collections of axons travelling together through the central nervous system. The different types of somatosensory information tend to travel in different pathways, as they move through the central nervous system. In general, the different types of somatosensation break down into two big categories. The first includes position sense, vibration sense, and fine touch sense, or very precise touch sense information. The other big grouping of types of somatosensory information that tend to travel together includes the sense of pain, pain sense, temperature sense, and what we can call gross touch sense, or less precise touch sense information. Recall that somatosensory information from most of the body is going to travel back to the central nervous system through nerves in the peripheral nervous system, and then spinal nerves that'll enter the spinal cord. For example, in this category, let's say we have a receptor that carries some position sense information. Let me just draw an R here in the arm, for receptor for position sense. That information is going to travel in nerves of the peripheral nervous system and then spinal nerves to enter the spinal cord and deliver that information into the spinal cord. The same thing with this other big category of types of somatosensation. Let's say we had some sort of receptor here down in the leg, I'll just write an R for receptor that can detect noxious stimuli, that can cause the experience of pain. Then that information can travel through nerves of the peripheral nervous system and then spinal nerves to enter the spinal cord and deliver that information into the central nervous system. The same is true for somatosensory information from the face and other parts of the head, but that information will enter usually the brain stem through cranial nerves, instead of entering the spinal cord through spinal nerves. For instance if we have a receptor that can detect vibration somewhere here on the face, that information can travel through a cranial nerve into the brain stem. If we had another receptor here in the face that could detect say temperature, one of these other types of somatosensation, that also could travel through a cranial nerve and enter the brain stem. But now what happens once this information is delivered, into either the spinal cord or into the brain stem- So I've taken the brain and the spinal cord, and I've drawn a little bigger illustration over here. We're still looking at it from the front, but I've kind of cut into the brain here, so we're seeing inside of the brain, and the inside of the spinal cord. First lets consider this category of different types of somatosensation, the category that includes pain sense and temperature sense and gross touch sense. Let's say, like I've drawn here, we have some of that coming in from the leg on one side. Let me just draw an arrow, showing that information entering the spinal cord down low here. Inside the spinal cord, neuron axons are going to carry that information up to the brain, in one of these somatosensory tracts, one of the tracts that's specific to this category of types of somatosensation. Let me just draw that, but I'm going to leave out some of the details. One important detail is that it actually crosses to the other side, and then goes up through the spinal cord, and up through the brain stem, and then comes to a place kind of deep down in the cerebrum, what we'll talk about a little bit more in another one of these videos. Notice that it's on the other side, it's actually coming into the cerebral hemisphere on the other side, from the part of the body that the receptor was on. The same is going to be true, for this other category of types of somatosensation, that includes position and vibration and fine touch sense. Let's say, just like I drew some of that information coming in from an arm on this side, let me just draw an arrow here, showing that that's also coming in the spinal cord, but a little higher up on the spinal cord. Now there'll be a different tract, that's going to carry that information up, and it's going to cross in a little different place, a little higher up in the brain stem, and then it's also going to keep going up, and then it's going to come to the same place deep down in one of the cerebral hemispheres, on the other side from where that information came in from the body. The pain, temperature, and gross touch sense from the face, and some other parts of the head, can come into the brain stem through cranial nerves, and then that information is actually going to take a funny pathway that actually goes down first, and then crosses, and then goes up to about the same place, or pretty near the place, that this information from the rest of the body came from. Lastly, position sense, vibration sense, and fine touch sense from the face and some other parts of the head, will also come into the brain stem through cranial nerves, and it will also cross over to the other side, and go to about the same place deep in the cerebral hemisphere. In this place, deep in the cerebral hemisphere, all these different types of somatosensory information are going to come back together. There going to be very close to each other now, and then they're going to stay together pretty close as they send that information on to areas of the cerebral cortex, areas on the outside of the cerebral hemisphere, that will do more processing of that information. Becuase the somatosensory tracts carrying these types of sensory information through the central nervous system have this sort of anatomy, this sort of structure, one of the big consequences of this is that if there's some sort of injury to one of the cerebral hemispheres- Let me just draw a big orange arrow through this cerebral hemisphere, to indicate that there's an injury or some kind of disease has affected this side of the brain- Then what we often see, with an injury to one side of the brain, is the other side of the body can have somatosensory loss, because all of these pathways carrying somatosensory information crossed from one side over to the other side. If we're looking from the front and this is the left cerebral hemisphere that has an injury, we could see loss of somatosensation, or abnormal somatosensation on the right side of the face and the rest of the body, depending on how much brain tissue is injured, and and how much of these somatosensory pathways are affected. I think you could also see, that since all these different pathways have slightly different parts of the central nervous system that they travel to, abnormalities in some different parts of the brain stem or the spinal cord could affect some parts of somatosensation but not others, depending on where the area of abnormality is. We'll save a lot of the details of the exact anatomy and the places these cross for other videos, but I just wanted to introduce this idea of these somatosensory tracts, and why we often see injury to one side of the brain causing somatosensory loss or abnormalities on the other side of the body.