The Central Nervous System – Control Centre of the Body


Following the Australian of the Year Awards and Australia Day celebrations this week, I’ve been left in a bit of a spin, bearing witness to the busy energy of this lovable and capable nation.  I’ve seen everything from beer- sucking, flag-clad yobbos (engineering and testing the perfect Australia Day slip n slide) to sober super-geek scientists tirelessly shuffling data to find a cure for cancer.  I relished Russel Morris singing his timeless “Come and see the real thing” at the Australia Day Concert by the Sydney Opera House and feasted on a diverse array of inspiring Australian stories told in the Great Hall at Parliament House, for the Australian of the Year awards.

As a collective, you’ve got to hand it to us for channelling creative energy !

But what I really want to write about today is the miracle of the nervous system and the work of our 2017 Aussie of the Year, Professor Alan Mackay-Sim.  To cut a very long story short, Mackay-Sim’s work has lead to a team of Polish doctors helping a paraplegic man to walk again.  This breakthrough has been compared to landing man on the moon.  And when you consider the complexity of the nervous system, it’s a BIG DEAL.

The spinal cord, along with the brain, forms the central nervous system, which is essentially our body’s control and communication centre.  Along the course of its distribution, nerve roots branch off the spinal cord and travel as nerves to all regions of the body.  All stimuli that pass between the brain and the body must travel along the spinal cord.  These stimuli include:

  • Control of muscular movements
  • Emotional aspects of behaviour and memory
  • Interpretation of sensory impulses
  • Co-ordination of skeletal muscles
  • Maintenance of normal muscle tone and body equilibrium
  • Control of respiration
  • Housing of reflex centres that help control heart and respiratory rates

Suffice to say then that spinal cord damage is potentially devastating.  And those who are unfortunate enough to suffer loss of sensation can struggle to even feel human.  Imagine trying to come to terms with not being able to feel the touch of a loved one’s hand or the weight of your child sitting on your lap.

We enjoy the real world around us and our bodies in relation to the world because of our nervous systems.  Do you ever ponder the miracle of just being able to perform simple tasks like picking up a pencil, giving someone a twirly whirly or cuddling a pet ?  There are people alive right now who have lost the ability to speak, swallow and even breathe properly because their nervous systems aren’t working properly.

So congratulations, Professor Mackay-Sim.

  • For maintaining all that focus and energy on giving hope to those with nerve damage AND
  • For sharing your concepts, so that others could pick up the ball and run with it.

To me, you’re “the real thing” because you embody that part of Australians we can all be proud of.  That underlying camaraderie, sense of adventure and freedom of spirit that facilitates change.

OOO MAO MA MAO, MA MAO, MA MAO, MA MAO, MA MAAAAOOOOH !! 😀 (from the lyrics of ‘Come and see the real thing’ Russel Morris)

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