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The muscular system is composed of specialized cells called muscle fibers. Their predominant function is contractibility. Muscles, where attached to bones or internal organs and blood vessels, are responsible for movement. Nearly all movement in the body is the result of muscle contraction. There are three types of muscle: skeletal, smooth, and cardiac.
Skeletal muscle, attached to bones, is responsible for skeletal movements. The peripheral portion of the central nervous system (CNS) controls the skeletal muscles. Thus, these muscles are under conscious, or voluntary, control. The basic unit is the muscle fiber with many nuclei. These muscle fibers are striated (having transverse streaks) and each acts independently of neighboring muscle fibers.
Smooth muscle, found in the walls of the hollow internal organs such as blood vessels, the gastrointestinal tract, bladder, and uterus, is under control of the autonomic nervous system. Smooth muscle cannot be controlled consciously and thus acts involuntarily. The non-striated (smooth) muscle cell is spindle-shaped and has one central nucleus. Smooth muscle contracts slowly and rhythmically.
Cardiac muscle, found in the walls of the heart, is also under control of the autonomic nervous system. The cardiac muscle cell has one central nucleus, like smooth muscle, but it also is striated, like skeletal muscle. The cardiac muscle cell is rectangular in shape. The contraction of cardiac muscle is involuntary, strong, and rhythmical.