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Developing the nervous system

This short video by QUT’s Dr Judith Howard describes the development of the nervous system in relation to students who have suffered complex trauma.

To understand why students who have experienced complex trauma can behave in the way they do, let us consider the impact of trauma on the early development of a nervous system. This will help us to better understand how to respond to behavioural concerns.

The nervous system

The nervous system© QUT 2018.

The nervous system consists of:

  • central nervous system (all the nerve cells within the brain and spinal cord)
  • peripheral nervous system (all the nerve cells in the nervous system outside of the brain and spinal cord).

The nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system connect the central nervous system to sensory organs (eyes, ears, skin, etc.) and to other organs of the body, as well as to muscles, blood vessels, and glands.

Nerve cells

A nerve cell© QUT 2018.

A neuron (or nerve cell) consists of a number of parts:

  • The cell body (or soma) contains the nucleus, which contains all our genetic material.
  • The dendrites are branched extensions of the neuron that receive electrical stimulation from other cells, which can then cause the initial cell to fire.
  • The axon (or nerve fibre) is a long, slender projection of the neuron that conducts electrical impulses away from the cell body.

At the end of the axon, the axon terminal branches out and ends in small bulbs called terminal buttons. Each terminal button contains synaptic vesicles which are pockets containing a multitude of differing chemicals called neurotransmitters (or neurochemicals).

Neural pruning

Neural pruning is the process through which neurons that are damaged or neural pathways that are not strong are eliminated. This process happens to enhance the efficiency of neuronal transmissions throughout the nervous system.

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Teaching Students Who Have Suffered Complex Trauma

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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