AskDefine | Define somatic

Dictionary Definition

somatic adj : affecting or characteristic of the body as opposed to the mind or spirit; "bodily needs"; "a corporal defect"; "corporeal suffering"; "a somatic symptom or somatic illness" [syn: bodily, corporal, corporeal]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Part of, or relating to a body of an organism.


Extensive Definition

"Somatic" redirects here; for the musician known as Somatic, see Hahn Rowe.
The somatic nervous system is the part of the peripheral nervous system associated with the voluntary control of body movements through the action of skeletal muscles, and with reception of external stimuli, which helps keep the body in touch with its surroundings (e.g., touch, hearing, and sight).
The system includes all the neurons connected with muscles, skin and sense organs. The somatic nervous system consists of efferent nerves responsible for sending brain signals for muscle contraction.

Nerve signal transmission

The somatic nervous system processes sensory information and controls all voluntary muscular systems within the body, with the exception of reflex arcs. The basic route of nerve signals within the efferent somatic nervous system involves a sequence that begins in the upper cell bodies of motor neurons (upper motor neurons) within the precentral gyrus (which approximates the primary motor cortex). Stimuli from the precentral gyrus are transmitted from upper motor neurons and down the corticospinal tract, via axons to control skeletal (voluntary) muscles. These stimuli are conveyed from upper motor neurons through the ventral horn of the spinal cord, and across synapses to be received by the sensory receptors of alpha motor neuron (large lower motor neurons) of the brainstem and spinal cord.
Upper motor neurons release a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, from their axon terminal knobs, which are received by nicotinic receptors of the alpha motor neurons. In turn, alpha motor neurons relay the stimuli received down their axons via the ventral root of the spinal cord. These signals then proceed to the neuromuscular junctions of skeletal muscles.
From there, acetylcholine is released from the axon terminal knobs of alpha motor neurons and received by postsynaptic receptors (Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors) of muscles, thereby relaying the stimulus to contract muscle fibers.

Vertebrate and invertebrate differences

In invertebrates, depending on the neurotransmitter released and the type of receptor it binds, the response in the muscle fiber could either be excitatory or inhibitory. For vertebrates, however, the response of a muscle fiber to a neurotransmitter (always acetylcholine (ACh)) can only be excitatory or, in other words, contractile.

Reflex arcs

A reflex arc is an automatic reaction that allows an organism to protect itself reflexively when an imminent danger is perceived. In response to certain stimuli, such as touching a hot surface, these reflexes are 'hard wired' through the spinal cord. A reflexive impulse travels up afferent nerves, through a spinal interneuron, and back down appropriate efferent nerves.

See also

somatic in Catalan: Sistema nerviós somàtic
somatic in German: Somatisches Nervensystem
somatic in Dhivehi: ސޮމެޓިކް ނާރވަސް ސިސްޓަމް
somatic in Spanish: Sistema nervioso somático
somatic in French: Système nerveux somatique
somatic in Icelandic: Viltaugakerfið
somatic in Japanese: 体性神経系
somatic in Norwegian: Det somatiske nervesystem
somatic in Polish: Somatyczny układ nerwowy
somatic in Portuguese: Sistema nervoso somático
somatic in Russian: Соматическая нервная система
somatic in Finnish: Somaattinen hermosto
somatic in Chinese: 躯体神经系统
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1