Cervical Spinal Cord

The cervical spinal cord is protected by the cervical vertebrae, along with ligaments and intervertebral discs, and is responsible for conducting motor information to the muscles and tissues of the body, co-ordinating certain reflexes, and delivering sensory information to the central nervous system. In general, the spinal cord conducts neural signals to and from the brain but it can also act independently to control a number of reflexes and certain functional patterns without direct involvement of the brain itself. The spinal cord extends only part way down the vertebral column, with the lower spinal nerves extending down the column before exiting the spine, unlike the upper spinal nerves which exit the spinal cord at various vertebral levels.

Spinal Cord
Cut away view of the spine including the spinal cord

The spinal cord is made up of nervous tissue and support cells and is around 43-45cm long with men having a slightly longer spinal cord in general. The diameter of the spinal cord is fairly consistent throughout with a couple of notable exceptions at the cervical enlargement and the lumbar enlargement. The cervical enlargement exists at C4-T1 and is where the sensory input and motor output comes from and goes to the upper limbs. At the lumbar enlargement, which is actually at T9-T12 rather than in the lumbar region of the spine, the sensory input from the legs and the motor output to the lower limbs is the reason for the widening of the spinal cord.

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