In vertebrate species it consists of two main parts, the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The PNS consists mainly of nerves, which are enclosed bundles of the long fibers or axons, that connect the CNS to every other part of the body.
Nerves that transmit signals from the brain are called motor or efferent nerves, while those nerves that transmit information from the body to the CNS are called sensory or afferent.
Most nerves serve both functions and are called mixed nerves.
The PNS is divided into a) somatic and b) autonomic nervous system, and c) the enteric nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is further subdivided into the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.
There is an anatomical convention that a cluster of neurons in the brain or spinal cord is called a nucleus, whereas a cluster of neurons in the periphery is called a ganglion.
There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule, notably including the part of the forebrain called the basal ganglia Arthropods, such as insects and crustaceans, have a nervous system made up of a series of ganglia, connected by a ventral nerve cord made up of two parallel connectives running along the length of the belly.
Recent findings indicate that glial cells, such as microglia and astrocytes, serve as important resident immune cells within the central nervous system.
The vertebrate nervous system can also be divided into areas called grey matter ("gray matter" in American spelling) and white matter.
"It is difficult to believe that until approximately year 1900 it was not known that neurons are the basic units of the brain (Santiago Ram? Equally surprising is the fact that the concept of chemical transmission in the brain was not known until around 1930 (Henry Hallett Dale) and (Otto Loewi).
We began to understand the basic electrical phenomenon that neurons use in order to communicate among themselves, the action potential, in the decade of 1950 (Alan Lloyd Hodgkin, Andrew Huxley and John Eccles).
Both autonomic and enteric nervous systems function involuntarily.
Nerves that exit from the cranium are called cranial nerves while those exiting from the spinal cord are called spinal nerves.
Typically, each body segment has one ganglion on each side, though some ganglia are fused to form the brain and other large ganglia.