What are Spinal Tracts?

"Spinal Tracts" defines the anatomical map which common neurons form in the spinal cord. Each tract specializes in relaying a message. Some are "sensory tracts," meaning they carry stimulus and signals from the body to the brain, while other are "motor tracts," which carry commands from the brain to make muscles and organs function. Voluntary/Conscious information include signals we are aware of (we are aware a pin is sharp, as it creates a conscious pain sensation, and we can voluntarily move our fingers in order to play the piano). Fortunately, there are signals we aren't always aware of. Involuntary motor commands maintain or change our heart beat based on the body's demands. Alternately, certain mechanoreceptors transmit unconscious proprioceptive sensory signals our brain uses to modulate tone of muscles.

 

Axons (nerve fibers) enter the spinal cord from the body on its right and left sides. Once inside they travel in groups, known as tracts, towards the brain. Many of the tracts decussate, or span across the cord, to reach their destination at the brain on the opposite side of the body (this is why the left side of your brain issues motor commands for the right side of your body).

This information is important for anyone in healthcare. Understanding how this information moves along the spine helps to identify how? and why? different pathologies impact regular body function.

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