Afferent nerve

Definition

noun, plural: afferent nerves

The type of nerve that carries sensory nerve impulses from the periphery towards the central nervous system


Supplement

The peripheral nervous system of vertebrates has two main types of nerves. These are the efferent nerves and the afferent nerves. The distinction lies on the direction of nerve impulse transmission. In efferent nerves, the nerve impulse comes from the central nervous system and is relayed towards the periphery, particularly towards the effectors. In afferent nerves, the nerve impulse is detected from the periphery and conducted towards the spinal cord and the brain. Thus, sensory nerves are considered as afferent nerves. For instance, an external stimulus detected by the body results in sensation when it is processed in the central nervous system through the afferent nerve pathways. Both afferent and efferent nerves are made of chains of neurons.

Damage or disease involving the afferent nerves may result in the misinterpretation of stimuli and lead to disorders, for instance hyperalgesia. In this condition, the individual has a heightened sensitivity to pain.


Word origin: Latin adferens (bringing to), adferre (to bring to), from ad (to, toward) + ferre (to carry, bear) + Latin nervus (sinew)

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