Pyramidal System

A pyramidal system is extremely complex. The way the fiber and fibers connections are set up in all of these cells of origin makes them look like a pyramid. As was thought for a long time, the pyramidal system won’t work autonomously from the neurogenic system. Instead, it works together with the extrapyramidal system to control involuntary and voluntary muscle movements. So, what exactly is a pyramidal system, and how does it work?

The pyramidal system controls all actions in humans and other mammals. This system refers to the pyramidal tract, which comprises all the nerve cell functions that come together and the group of central sensory neurons that are reticular formation neurons and make up muscle tissue.

This article will discuss the pyramidal system, its functions, anatomy, physiology, and brain disease, which can damage the pyramidal tract.

The Pyramidal System – What Is It?

The pyramidal system is the name given to the mechanism that manages all of a mammal or human’s movements. This refers to the pyramidal tract, which comprises all convergent nerve cell processes, and the group of central motor neurons, which are efferent and serve as the building blocks of skeletal muscle.

These origin cells have a stunning structure organized into a pyramidal shape by the path of the fibers and the connections between the fibers. Additionally, contrary to what was often believed, the extrapyramidal and pyramidal systems work in unison to control all involuntary and voluntary motor action.

The pyramidal tracts get their name from the medulla oblongata’s medullary pyramids, which they pass through. These circuits are in charge of voluntary regulation of the body and facial musculature. These tracts can be classified into two functional groups:

Spinal Corticosteroids

The cerebral cortex is where the corticospinal tracts originate, and it is here that they receive a variety of inputs:

  • Premotor cortex
  • Primary motor cortex
  • Supplementary motor area

Additionally, they get nerve fibers from the somatosensory region, which controls the ascending tracts’ activity. The neurons congregate and descend via the internal capsule after emerging from the cortex (a white matter pathway between the basal ganglia and the thalamus).

This has clinical significance because internal capsule compression from hemorrhagic bleeds, often known as a “capsular stroke,” is more prone to occur. An incident like that might damage the descending tracts. The neurons exit the internal capsule and go through the pons, crus cerebri of the brain’s center, and the medulla.

The tract splits into two in the region of the medulla that is most inferior (caudal):

The ipsilateral anterior corticospinal tract continues to descend into the spinal cord. The ventral horn of the cervical and upper thoracic segmental levels is where they decussate and end.

The lateral corticospinal tract’s fibers decussate (move to the other side of the CNS). After that, they enter the spinal cord and come to an end at the ventral horn (at all segmental levels). Lower motor neurons supply the body’s muscles from the ventral horn.

Corticobulbar Tracts

The lateral portion of the primary motor cortex is where the corticobulbar tracts originate. The same inputs that the corticospinal tracts do are sent to them. The fibers converge and travel to the brainstem through the internal capsule. The motor nuclei of the cranial nerves are where the neurons end.

Lower motor neurons, which send the motor signals to muscles in the face and neck, synapse at this location. Understanding how the corticobulbar fibers are organized is crucial for clinical purposes. Many of these fibers bilaterally innervate the motor neurons.

For the left and right trochlear nerves, fibers from the left primary motor cortex serve as higher motor neurons. Contralateral innervation is present in the upper motor neurons of the facial nerve (CN VII). This impacts only the muscles below the eyes in the lower quadrant of the face. Upper motor neurons innervate only the contralateral side of the hypoglossal (CN XII) nerve.

Anatomy And Physiology Of The Pyramidal System

Directly within the cerebral cortex is where you’ll find the pyramidal system. Pyramidal cells, a type of cell body found in the motor cortex, are formed there by motor neurons. Pyramidal cells come in various sizes, including noticeably huge ones known as Betz giant cells.

These are specific neuronal cells found only in the primary motor cortex. These enormous cells are found in the 5th layer of the cerebral cortex and send information to the cranial nerve nuclei and spinal cord via axons. There are not many Betz cells like this. There are around 30,000 neurons in the cerebral cortex of humans.

However, the cerebral cortex is filled with tiny pyramidal cells, particularly in the isocortex, which is different from the second portion of the allocortex. Most neurons are found in the third layer, which makes up around 70%. There, the majority of information transmissions and their full processing take place.

The principal component of this region, the pyramidal tract, which serves as a bridge from the brain to the spinal cord, is always associated with the pyramidal system. It only ever descends and acts as a neural channel in these areas, transmitting all impulses.

The motor cortex’s cell bodies, also known as the precentral gyrus, located in one brain turn just before the central furrow, serve as the starting point. Its nerve fibers bundle in the internal capsule (capsula interna) region, across the brain’s legs, and then connect to the medulla oblongata.

Nearly 90% of all fibers cross here in a pyramidal pattern, which is especially well-developed in humans. Conversely, the uncrossed fibers continue and don’t cross until they either reach the spinal cord segment or come to an end at the alpha motoneurons in the anterior horn cells.

Functions Of The Pyramidal System

The pyramidal tract controls every voluntary unconscious movement of the bodily muscles. Additionally, it blocks the intrinsic muscle reflex or fundamental muscle tension. The receptors on the muscle spindles, which manage the length of the muscle fibers, are the source of this.

The stimulus travels along a reflex arc and is identical in location and organ. The extrapyramidal system’s pathways then activate the limb and trunk muscles. This makes it possible for mass movements, the foundation of all movements that travel down the pyramidal pathway.

Once more, the hand’s motion is used as an illustration. The upper arm must also be moved to move it. The extrapyramidal system is responsible for the latter.

Pyramidal System Diseases

Paralysis happens when the pyramidal system is damaged. It is distinguished whether a defect originated in the first neuron or the second. Such paralysis need not be total; it may simply impact a few areas, as in the case of a stroke with circulation problems in the brain.

The extrapyramidal takes over control of some functions if processes in the pyramidal system stop working due to this perturbation. Flaccid paralysis is the outcome of injury to the brain’s pyramidal system. Fine motor abilities are hampered as a result of uncontrolled co-motion of other muscles and uneven motor skill flow.

In most instances, other areas are also impacted by such manifestations, in addition to blocked channels in the pyramidal system. Spastic paralysis follows flaccid paralysis. Numerous reflexes, such as the Babinski reflex in the foot, are examples of neurological signs in such situations.

As disruption of the pyramidal tract brings them on, these neurological symptoms are typically referred to as pyramidal tract signals. Pathologically, this causes highly unique reflexes in the lower and upper extremities with different names.

On the other hand, significantly more severe diseases develop when the extrapyramidal system is compromised. When motor functions are either not governed by the pyramidal network or occur outside, we always refer to an “extrapyramidal” motor system.

Movement disorders that are neurologically or genetically determined may develop if disruptions take place here. Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease are two examples. These conditions are brought on by lesions inside the primitive subcortical nuclei, which alter the muscular tone and result in aberrant or uncontrollable motions.

Particularly slow-moving and degenerative, Parkinson’s disease causes hypokinetic movement problems, which are itself based on overactivity of all output nuclei. Parkinson’s disease typically strikes older people.

As a result, the transmission to the suitable projection routes in the thalamus is more strongly inhibited. In such circumstances, not only does facial expression disappear and turn into a mask, but legs and arms usually start to tremble violently.

The following brain diseases and disorders can cause severe damage to the pyramidal tract;

Brain Hemorrhage

A brain hemorrhage (a type of stroke) occurs when an artery in the brain bursts. This results in localized bleeding in the surrounding tissues, ultimately killing the brain cells. When a brain hemorrhage occurs, many patients feel symptoms similar to a stroke, including the weakness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking, or numbness.

Common symptoms include difficulty completing daily tasks, such as difficulty walking or falling. Hemorrhagic strokes, or those brought on by bleeding into the brain, account for about 13% of all strokes.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease   

A relatively uncommon condition known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) results in the breakdown of the brain. It is an extremely progressive disease; sadly, most victims pass away a year after contracting it. Brain cells are destroyed by the illness and give the brain a sponge-like appearance when viewed under a microscope.

Dementia

When thinking, memory, and reasoning skills are lost to the point where they interfere with day-to-day tasks, this condition is known as dementia.

Some dementia patients have emotional instability and personality changes. The intensity of dementia varies from the mildest stage, when it is just starting to interfere with a person’s ability to function, to the most severe level, when the individual must fully rely on others for fundamental daily activities.

Meningitis

Meningitis occurs when the fluids and membranes (meninges) around your brain and spinal cord become inflamed. Signs and symptoms of meningitis include a headache, fever, and a stiff neck.

Other causes include parasitic, bacterial, and fungal infections. The majority of meningitis cases in the US are viral. Some types of meningitis might clear up in a few weeks without treatment. Others are potentially fatal and need immediate access to antibiotics.

Tumors

A tumor is described as a solid mass of tissue formed when abnormal cells congregate. Tumors can damage the bones, tissue, organs, and glands. Benign tumors are not cancerous. However, they may still require therapy. Cancerous or malignant tumors can be deadly and requires cancer therapy.

Multiple System Atrophy

A rare degenerative neurological disease known as multiple system atrophy (MSA) affects your body’s automatic (autonomic) processes, including blood pressure, respiration, bladder control, and motor coordination.

Previously known as Shy-Drager syndrome, olivopontocerebellar atrophy, or striatonigral degeneration, MSA exhibits symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease, including delayed movement and tight tightness muscles, and unsteady balance.

Although there is no cure, treatment involves medications and altering one’s lifestyle to help manage symptoms. Gradually, the disease worsens until it eventually results in death.

Cerebral Palsy

A collection of conditions known as cerebral palsy affects posture, muscular tone, and movement. It is brought on by trauma to the developing, immature brain, most frequently before birth.

Infancy or the preschool years are when signs and symptoms first develop. Generally speaking, cerebral palsy results in movement impairment accompanied by heightened reflexes, spasticity of the trunk and limbs, floppiness, abnormal posture, involuntary motions, unstable walking, or a combination of these.

People with cerebral palsy frequently experience eye muscle imbalance, which causes their eyes to not focus on the same thing, as well as swallowing issues. Due to muscle stiffness, they may also have less range of motion at different joints throughout their bodies.

Cerebral palsy could have a wide range of causes and functional implications. While some cerebral palsy sufferers can walk unaided, others do. Intellectual disability can affect some persons but not others. The presence of epilepsy, blindness, or deafness is also possible. Cerebral palsy is a chronic condition. Although there is no cure, medications can help function.

Conclusion

By looking at the above observation, we can conclude that the pyramidal system is an extremely important part of our body. Without it, we would not be able to do anything, and unfortunately, damage to your pyramidal tract cannot be undone. Therefore, if you experience any symptoms like those mentioned, it would be best to speak to a medical professional.

References

Pyramidal tracts – Wikipedia

Pyramidal system – definition (neuroscientificallychallenged.com)

Pyramidal tracts: Corticospinal and corticonuclear tracts | Kenhub

The Descending Tracts – Pyramidal – TeachMeAnatomy

Theodore T.

Theodore is a professional psychology educator with over 10 years of experience creating educational content on the internet. PracticalPsychology started as a helpful collection of psychological articles to help other students, which has expanded to a Youtube channel with over 2,000,000 subscribers and an online website with 500+ posts.