The Nervous System
The mammalian nervous system is a complex biological organ, which enables many animals including humans to function in a coordinated fashion. The original design of this system is preserved across many animals through evolution; thus, adaptive physiological and behavioral functions are similar across many animal species. Comparative study of physiological functioning in the nervous systems of different animals lend insights to their behavior and their mental processing and make it easier for us to understand the human brain and behavior. In addition, studying the development of the nervous system in a growing human provides a wealth of information about the change in its form and behaviors that result from this change. The nervous system is divided into central and peripheral nervous systems, and the two heavily interact with one another. The peripheral nervous system controls volitional (somatic nervous system) and nonvolitional (autonomic nervous system) behaviors using cranial and spinal nerves. The central nervous system is divided into forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain, and each division performs a variety of tasks; for example, the cerebral cortex in the forebrain houses sensory, motor, and associative areas that gather sensory information, process information for perception and memory, and produce responses based on incoming and inherent information. To study the nervous system, a number of methods have evolved over time; these methods include examining brain lesions, microscopy, electrophysiology, electroencephalography, and many scanning technologies.