Fluorescent neurons from a mouse spinal cord.

What does the nervous system do?

The nervous system plays a role in nearly every aspect of our health and well-being. It guides everyday activities such as waking up; automatic activities such as breathing; and complex processes such as thinking, reading, remembering, and feeling emotions.

The nervous system controls:

  • Brain growth and development
  • Sensations (such as touch or hearing)
  • Perception (the mental process of interpreting sensory information)
  • Thought and emotions
  • Learning and memory
  • Movement, balance, and coordination
  • Sleep
  • Healing and rehabilitation
  • Stress and the body’s responses to stress
  • Aging
  • Breathing and heartbeat
  • Body temperature
  • Hunger, thirst, and digestion
  • Puberty, reproductive health, and fertility

Neuroscientists study these and other nervous system functions in both healthy and diseased states. Studying and understanding the nervous system is important because it affects so many areas of human health and well-being.1


What are the parts of the nervous system?

What does the nervous system do?

Why should scientists study neuroscience?

What are some different areas of neuroscience?

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