The Human Body

Simple Systems

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Neural Organization
Nervous systems range in complexity from the jellyfish’s network of nerve cells to the central and peripheral systems of humans. Common to many animals is the nervous structure of the earthworm, which consists of a cerebral ganglion, a main nerve cord, and branching pairs of lateral nerves. In some cases, as in insects, the cerebral ganglion acts as a primitive brain, controlling and coordinating various basic functions.

Although all many-celled animals have some kind of nervous system, the complexity of its organization varies considerably among different animal types. In simple animals such as jellyfish, the nerve cells form a network capable of mediating only a relatively stereotyped response. In more complex animals, such as shellfish, insects, and spiders, the nervous system is more complicated. The cell bodies of neurons are organized in clusters called ganglia. These clusters are interconnected by the neuronal processes to form a ganglionated chain. Such chains are found in all vertebrates, in which they represent a special part of the nervous system, related especially to the regulation of the activities of the heart, the glands, and the involuntary muscles.