Figure 13.2a shows the relationship of the spinal cord to a vertebra and spinal nerve, and figure 13.2b shows the cord itself in more detail. The spinal cord, like the brain, consists of two kinds of nervous tissue called gray and white matter. Gray matter has a relatively dull color because it contains little myelin. It contains the somas, dendrites, and proximal parts of the axons of neurons. It is the site of synaptic contact between neurons, and therefore the site of all synaptic integration (information processing) in the central nervous system. White matter contains an abundance of myelinated axons, which give it a bright, pearly white appearance. It is composed of bundles of axons, called tracts, that carry signals from one part of the CNS to another. In fixed and silver-stained nervous tissue, gray matter tends to have a darker brown or golden color and white matter a lighter tan to yellow color.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.