The peripheral nervous system has both motor and sensory components. The former includes the motor neuron cell body in the anterior horn of the spinal cord and its peripheral axonal process traveling through the ventral root and eventually the peripheral nerve ( Fig 3). The motor nerve terminal, together with the muscle endplate and the synapse between the two, comprises the neuromuscular junction. The peripheral sensory axon, beginning at receptors in cutaneous and deep structures, as well as muscle and tendon receptors, travels back through peripheral nerves to its cell body located in the dorsal root ganglion. Its central process, traveling through the dorsal root, enters the spinal cord in the region of the dorsal horn.
Fig. 3 Schematic diagram showing the motor neuron and its components, the neuromuscular junction, and muscle.
The basic mechanisms for conveying motor and sensory information are similar, involving the generation and transmission of action potentials. In the ICU, the motor component is arguably more relevant, and the following discussion focuses on this.
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