Spinal Cord Facts

  • The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves running down the middle of the backbone.
  • The spinal cord is the route for all nerve signals traveling between the brain and the body.
  • The spinal cord can actually work independently of the brain, sending out responses to the muscles directly.
  • The outside of the spinal cord is made of the long tails or axons of nerve cells and is called white matter; the inside is made of the main nerve bodies and is called grey matter.
  • Your spinal cord is about 43 cm long and I cm thick. It stops growing when you are about five years old.
  • Damage to the spinal cord can cause paralysis.
  • Injuries below the neck can cause paraplegia — paralysis below the waist.
  • Injuries to the neck can cause quadriplegia — paralysis below the neck.
  • Descending pathways are groups of nerves that carry nerve signals down the spinal cord – typically signals from the brain for muscles to move.
  • Ascending pathways are groups of nerves that carry nerve signals up the spinal cord – typically signals from the skin and internal body sensors going to the brain.