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    An Introduction To The Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System

    Human behavior is complex. There are a number of underlying mechanisms involved in practically every decision, action, thought, or feeling or other measurable behavioral outcomes, and many of which do not necessarily line up with self-report or basic observations.

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    An Introduction To The Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System

    Roxanna Salim

    Director Of Partnerships

    November 12th, 2019 Share

    Human behavior is complex. There are a number of underlying mechanisms involved in practically every decision, action, thought, or feeling or other measurable behavioral outcomes, and many of which do not necessarily line up with self-report or basic observations.

    Behind these decisions, actions, thoughts, and feelings, bodily processes can be found. These shape our responses. These processes aren’t measured through methods such as self report and observation, but can be measured by biosensors. Biosensors can provide deeper insights into constructs like emotional intensity by measuring these underlying systems.

    Below, we will provide an overview of one such set of systems, namely the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and describe how their activity is associated with changes in emotional arousal, and as a result, human behavior in the real world.

    The Human Nervous System

    First up, let’s look at the human nervous system. The nervous system is split up into the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system is split up into the somatic and autonomic nervous systems.

    The somatic nervous system is involved in the movement of our skeletal muscles. The autonomic nervous system – which as the name suggests is involved in a number of typically automatic, regulatory functions – is then further split up into the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

    These two systems are activated in times of arousal or recovery. Put simply, SNS activation leads to a “fight or flight” response, and PNS activation leads to a “rest and digest” response.

    The fight or flight response involves the SNS changing activity in the body to help prepare for a perceived threat, and includes: inhibition of the digestive and immune systems, increases in pupil size and heart rate, expansion of the lungs, and the release of epinephrine/norepinephrine. These processes are meant to optimize functions in the body when it’s under attack – you won’t benefit from digesting food, but you’ll likely need more oxygen from the lungs.

    To facilitate the rest and digest response, the PNS alters a number of functions in the body to help it recover. These functions are largely mirror opposites of SNS activation, and include: stimulation of the digestive and immune systems, decreases in pupil size and heart rate, and contraction of the lungs. These processes optimize functions in the body at rest, and allow it to focus on maintenance.

    These functions appear in not only moments of life-or-death, but also with more common emotional responses. As anyone who has felt the fear of public speaking knows, you don’t have to come face-to-face with a physical threat to feel a fight or flight response.

    Autonomic Activity in the Real World

    Imagine that you are going through a haunted house and a ghost jumps out at you. Given that you have perceived this as a threat, the SNS kicks in here to mobilize you to either run away (flight) or attack the threat (fight). Once you realize that it is not a real threat, the PNS kicks in to help you relax and recover from the startle.

    Remember that the SNS slows down digestion, where the PNS picks it back up, so that ill feeling in your stomach after being startled is explained by the switch between these two branches of the autonomic nervous system. A similar effect occurs when watching a scary movie preview.

    Interestingly these same processes take place, albeit in small amounts, when we interact with stimuli that have emotionally evoking elements. While one direct measure of emotional arousal as a result of SNS activation is assessing increases in epinephrine in blood, this measure tends to be invasive and not practical in most research settings.

    Fortunately, measures such as electrodermal activity (EDA), electrocardiography (ECG), and respiration are good indicators of emotional activation (whether positive or negative). EDA, heart rate, and respiration are controlled by the autonomic nervous system, and this system is activated in response to emotionally relevant and arousing content. It is important to note that while these non-invasive measures can give you insights into emotional reactivity, not all individuals react the same.

    Some individuals may show a heightened sympathetic response to content such as haunted house jump scares, horror movie trailers, or even videos of laughing babies, while others may not show the same response. As such, pairing indices such as EDA which provide a non-invasive and indirect measure of sympathetic activation with other measures such as eye tracking for visual attention, facial expressions for emotional valence, and self report for preferences will ultimately allow you to paint a more complete picture in your research of human behavior.

    Source : imotions.com

    Differences Between Sympathetic And Parasympathetic Nervous System

    Sympathetic and Parasympathetic are part of the autonomic nervous system, mainly involved in the different types of the physiological process of the human body.

    The Autonomic Nervous System

    The autonomic nervous system controls specific body processes, such as circulation of blood, digestion, breathing, urination, heartbeat, etc. The autonomic nervous system is named so, because it works autonomously, i.e., without a person’s conscious effort.

    The primary function of the autonomic nervous system is homeostasis. Apart from maintaining the body’s internal environment, it is also involved in controlling and maintaining the following life processes:

    Digestion Metabolism Urination Defecation Blood pressure Sexual response Body temperature Heartbeat Breathing rate Fluid balance

    There are two types of autonomic nervous system:

    Sympathetic autonomic nervous system

    Parasympathetic autonomic nervous system

    What is Sympathetic And Parasympathetic Nervous System?

    Sympathetic Autonomic Nervous System: It is the part of the autonomic nervous system, located near the thoracic and lumbar regions in the spinal cord. Its primary function is to stimulate the body’s fight or flight response. It does this by regulating the heart rate, rate of respiration, pupillary response and more.Parasympathetic Autonomic Nervous System: It is located in between the spinal cord and the medulla. It primarily stimulates the body’s “rest and digest” and “feed and breed” response.More to Read: Human Nervous System

    Read on to explore more differences between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

    Difference between Sympathetic And Parasympathetic Nervous System

    The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for the “fight or flight” response during any potential danger. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system inhibits the body from overworking and restores the body to a calm and composed state. The difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system are differentiated, based on the way the body responds to environmental stimuli.

    The major differences between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system are summarised below:

    Sympathetic Parasympathetic

    Involved in the fight or flight response.  Involved in maintaining homeostasis and also, permits the rest and digest response.

    The sympathetic system prepares the body for any potential danger.  The parasympathetic system aims to bring the body to a state of calm.

    Sympathetic system has shorter neuron pathways, hence a faster response time.  Has comparatively longer neuron pathways, hence a slower response time.

    Increases heartbeat, muscles tense up.  Reduces heartbeat, muscles relaxes.

    The pupil dilates to let in more light.  The pupil contracts.

    Saliva secretion is inhibited.  Saliva secretion increases, digestion increases.

    On “fight and flight” situations, Adrenaline is released by the adrenal glands; more glycogen is converted to glucose.  No such functions exist in “fight or flight” situations.

    Conclusion

    The autonomic nervous system comprises two parts- the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system activates the fight or flight response during a threat or perceived danger, and the parasympathetic nervous system restores the body to a state of calm.

    Learn more about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, or other related topics at BYJU’S Biology

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the major difference between parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system?

    The parasympathetic nervous system restores the body to a calm and composed state and prevents it from overworking. The sympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, prepares the body for fight and flight response.

    What are the hormones released by the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system?

    The sympathetic nervous system releases the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine that accelerate the heart rate.

    The parasympathetic nervous system releases acetylcholine, the hormone that slows down the heart rate.

    What actions are controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system?

    Salivation, urination, lacrimation, defecation and digestion are the important body activities stimulated by the parasympathetic nervous system.

    What are parasympathetic ganglia?

    These are the autonomic ganglia of the parasympathetic nervous system that lie near or within the organs they innervate.

    What are the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system composed of?

    The parasympathetic nervous system is composed of cranial and spinal nerves. The sympathetic nervous system comprises cell bodies that lie within the gray column of spinal cord.

    Source : byjus.com

    Autonomic nervous system

    Autonomic nervous system

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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    Autonomic nervous system

    Autonomic nervous system innervation.

    Details Identifiers Latin MeSH D001341 TA98 A14.3.00.001 TA2 6600 FMA 9905

    [edit on Wikidata]

    The autonomic nervous system (ANS), formerly referred to as the vegetative nervous system, is a division of the peripheral nervous system that supplies smooth muscle and glands, and thus influences the function of internal organs.[1] The autonomic nervous system is a control system that acts largely unconsciously and regulates bodily functions, such as the heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal.[2] This system is the primary mechanism in control of the fight-or-flight response.

    The autonomic nervous system is regulated by integrated reflexes through the brainstem to the spinal cord and organs. Autonomic functions include control of respiration, cardiac regulation (the cardiac control center), vasomotor activity (the vasomotor center), and certain reflex actions such as coughing, sneezing, swallowing and vomiting. Those are then subdivided into other areas and are also linked to autonomic subsystems and the peripheral nervous system. The hypothalamus, just above the brain stem, acts as an integrator for autonomic functions, receiving autonomic regulatory input from the limbic system.[3]

    The autonomic nervous system has three branches: the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system and the enteric nervous system.[4][5][6][7] Some textbooks do not include the enteric nervous system as part of this system.[8] The sympathetic nervous system is often considered the "fight or flight" system, while the parasympathetic nervous system is often considered the "rest and digest" or "feed and breed" system. In many cases, both of these systems have "opposite" actions where one system activates a physiological response and the other inhibits it. An older simplification of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems as "excitatory" and "inhibitory" was overturned due to the many exceptions found. A more modern characterization is that the sympathetic nervous system is a "quick response mobilizing system" and the parasympathetic is a "more slowly activated dampening system", but even this has exceptions, such as in sexual arousal and orgasm, wherein both play a role.[3]

    There are inhibitory and excitatory synapses between neurons. A third subsystem of neurons has been named as non-noradrenergic, non-cholinergic transmitters (because they use nitric oxide as a neurotransmitter) and are integral in autonomic function, in particular in the gut and the lungs.[9]

    Although the ANS is also known as the visceral nervous system, the ANS is only connected with the motor side.[10] Most autonomous functions are involuntary but they can often work in conjunction with the somatic nervous system which provides voluntary control.

    Contents

    1 Structure

    1.1 Sympathetic division

    1.2 Parasympathetic division

    1.3 Sensory neurons 1.4 Innervation 1.5 Motor neurons 2 Function

    2.1 Sympathetic nervous system

    2.2 Parasympathetic nervous system

    2.3 Enteric nervous system

    2.4 Neurotransmitters

    3 History 4 Caffeine effects 5 See also 6 References 7 External links

    Structure[edit]

    Autonomic nervous system, showing splanchnic nerves in middle, and the vagus nerve as "X" in blue. The heart and organs below in list to right are regarded as viscera.

    The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic division emerges from the spinal cord in the thoracic and lumbar areas, terminating around L2-3. The parasympathetic division has craniosacral “outflow”, meaning that the neurons begin at the cranial nerves (specifically the oculomotor nerve, facial nerve, glossopharyngeal nerve and vagus nerve) and sacral (S2-S4) spinal cord.

    The autonomic nervous system is unique in that it requires a sequential two-neuron efferent pathway; the preganglionic neuron must first synapse onto a postganglionic neuron before innervating the target organ. The preganglionic, or first, neuron will begin at the “outflow” and will synapse at the postganglionic, or second, neuron's cell body. The postganglionic neuron will then synapse at the target organ.

    Sympathetic division[edit]

    Main article: Sympathetic nervous system

    The sympathetic nervous system consists of cells with bodies in the lateral grey column from T1 to L2/3. These cell bodies are "GVE" (general visceral efferent) neurons and are the preganglionic neurons. There are several locations upon which preganglionic neurons can synapse for their postganglionic neurons:

    Paravertebral ganglia (3) of the sympathetic chain (these run on either side of the vertebral bodies)

    Source : en.wikipedia.org

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