Spinal cord

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  • The spinal cord is inside the vertebral column

Explain the consequences of the differing growth rates of the spinal cord and vertebral column on the position of the cord in the vertebral canal and on the length of the spinal nerve roots

The consequences are that while the foetus starts with a spinal cord that occupies the whole length of the vertebral canal, the differing rate means that when he is born, the cord will extend only to the L3 vertebral level, and when he is an adult, it will not reach further than L1-L2 (usually).

Spinal cord growth.gif Spinal cord growth2.gif

Describe the basic features of the spinal cord

  • Extends from the base of the skull, from vertebra C1 to L2.
  • 31 pairs of spinal nerves emerge from the spinal cord.
  • spinal nerves C1-C8, T1-T12, L1-L5, S1-S5
  • Conus medullaris is the expanded caudal (inferior) portion of the cord.
  • Cauda equina (horse's tail) is the bundle of nerve roots in the spinal canal below vertebral L2.
  • Internally, the cord contains the H-shaped Grey Matter, surrounded by White Matter.

Major spinal pathways

Identify the anatomical and functional regions within the grey matter and white matter of the spinal cord

Gray Matter

  • Dorsal and ventral horn contains cell bodies which serve sensory and motor function respectively
  • Dorsal and ventral horns are further divided into laminae (cell columns)
    • The nuclei in each lamina serve a specific type of sensory or motor function
  • Intermediate areas at specific levels of the spinal cord serve autonomic functions

White matter