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Autonomic Nervous System

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Autonomic Nervous System

Did you ever wonder how your body processes are regulated on a daily basis? For example, the rate of breathing or your blood pressure? In this explanation, we'll look at a part of the nervous system that takes care of all of this: the autonomic nervous system. We'll look at the specific functions of this part of the nervous system and its dysfunctions and compare the somatic and autonomic nervous systems.

Definition of the automatic nervous system

The autonomic nervous system is part of the peripheral nervous system responsible for regulating involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate and digestion. We don't need to think about these functions, so the autonomic nervous system works unconsciously. The autonomic nervous system also connects the brain to the endocrine system. This system releases hormones into the bloodstream. The autonomic nervous system is split into the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

Sympathetic nervous system

The sympathetic nervous system is primarily responsible for the fight-or-flight response. This response is activated when you face acute stress to allow the body to react quickly to the situation. The body may display some physical signs to suggest the flight-or-flight response has initiated, such as dilated pupils, pale or flushed skin, fast heartbeat, and increased breathing rate.

Parasympathetic nervous system

After the stressor is over, the parasympathetic nervous system works to relax the body and bring it back into a calm condition. Some physical body signs are slower heart rate and decreased breathing rate.

Two important neurotransmitters used in the autonomic nervous system are acetylcholine (works in the parasympathetic nervous system) and norepinephrine/noradrenaline (a hormone that works in the sympathetic nervous system).

The autonomic nervous system [+] stress [+] StudySmarterStress activates the sympathetic nervous system and the fight-or-flight response, pixabay.com

Autonomic dysfunction also referred to as dysautonomia, is a condition in which the autonomic nervous system does not work effectively. Autonomic dysfunction occurs when the nerves in the autonomic nervous system don't work as they should, which can affect the functions of the autonomic nervous system leading to problems with these functions. Other symptoms of autonomic dysfunction include dizziness, sweating too much/too little, digestive problems, sexual problems and vision problems such as trouble adjusting from light to dark.

The difference between the somatic and autonomic nervous systems

The somatic and autonomic nervous systems are parts of the peripheral nervous system; however, they have different functions. As we have learned, the autonomic nervous system functions unconsciously on involuntarily body processes. The somatic nervous system is the voluntary nervous system. It connects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to our body's muscles by sending messages through neurons to control voluntary movements.

An example of the somatic nervous system: you go for a run and spot a big puddle in your path. Your brain will send signals to your muscles to take action and move away from the obstacle. The somatic nervous system enables our body to move out of the way of the puddle.

Autonomic nervous system [+] somatic nervous system [+] movement [+] StudySmarterA woman running, www.freepik.com/vectors/morning-exercise, morning exercise vector created by pch.vector

The main difference is that the somatic nervous system is responsible for controlling voluntary movements. Meanwhile, the autonomic nervous system is responsible for involuntarily bodily functions.

Autonomic Nervous System - Key takeaways

  • The autonomic nervous system regulates involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate and breathing.
  • The autonomic nervous system is split into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
  • The sympathetic nervous system is primarily responsible for the fight-or-flight responses, which are activated when we face acute stress to allow us to react quickly.
  • The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for relaxing the body back into its normal state once the stressor has passed.
  • The somatic nervous system is responsible for voluntary bodily movements while the autonomic nervous system is responsible for involuntary bodily functions.

Frequently Asked Questions about Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system regulates involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate and breathing.

The autonomic nervous system controls many organs including the stomach, liver, lungs, heart, spleen, colon, appendix, kidneys, and uterus.

The main difference is the somatic nervous system is responsible for voluntary bodily movements while the autonomic nervous system is responsible for involuntary bodily functions.

The autonomic nervous system represents a part of the peripheral nervous system that is mainly responsible for involuntary bodily functions, such as regulating the rate of breathing, heartbeat and also digestion processes. The sympathetic nervous system, part of the autonomic nervous system, is responsible for the fight-or-flight response.

Examples of the bodily functions the autonomic nervous system controls are heart rate, breathing, sexual arousal, salivation and digestion.

Final Autonomic Nervous System Quiz

Question

What is the autonomic nervous system?

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Answer

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating involuntary bodily functions.

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Question

What are some examples of bodily functions regulated by autonomic nervous system?

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Answer

Some examples are: heart rate, breathing, sexual arousal, salivation and digestion.

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Question

What are the two important neurotransmitters within the autonomic nervous system?


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Answer

acetylcholine (parasympathetic nervous system) and norepinephrine/noradrenaline (sympathetic nervous system)

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Question

The autonomic nervous system is split into what two parts?

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Answer

The sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

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What is the sympathetic nervous system primarily responsible for?


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Answer

The fight-or-flight response

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Is the fight-or-flight response related to the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system?

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Answer

Sympathetic nervous system

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Question

What is the fight-or-flight response?


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Answer

The fight-or-flight response is what is activated when we face acute stress.

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What are some physical signs of the fight-or-flight response?

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Some physical signs are: dilated pupils, pale or flushed skin, fast heart beat and increased breathing rate.

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What is the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for?


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Answer

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for relaxing the body back into a normal state once the stress has passed.

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What are the physical body signs of the parasympathetic nervous system?

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Answer

The physical body signs are for example: slower heart rate, decreased breathing rate and reduced blood pressure.

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Question

What's the enteric nervous system?

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Answer

The enteric nervous system consist of neutrons limited and confined in the gastrointestinal tract

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What is autonomic dysfunction?

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Autonomic dysfunction occurs when the nerves of the autonomic nervous system are damaged so this can affect the regulation of bodily functions.

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What are some causes of autonomic dysfunction?


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Answer

  • diabetes
  • Parkison's disease
  • peripheral nerve disorders
  • certain drugs consumption
  • spinal cord disorders
  • cancer
  • hereditary reasons

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What are some symptoms of autonomic dysfunction?

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Answer

Autonomic disorders will at times cause dizziness to the person, this is due to the reduced blood pressure. Some people may sweat too much or not sweat, becoming intolerant to the heat

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Question

What is the main difference between the somatic and autonomic nervous system?


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Answer

The somatic nervous system is responsible for voluntary bodily movements while the autonomic nervous system is responsible for involuntary bodily functions.

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