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Autonomic Nervous System

What makes the autonomic nervous system unique?

Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic system is functional unit that influences the emotions of the human body, it includes the gut. It transmits the data regarding the inner of the body to the central nervous system and influences the activity of all the inside parts like the heart, the excretion of many glands like adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) (Dieleman et al., 2015).

This autonomic NS performs an important part in running the internal functions smoothly, it helps to keep the level of sugar, salt, temperature, oxygen, and carbon dioxide normal and in proper balance in the blood. This autonomic nervous system is also associated with emotional experiences, when you are excited emotionally, the body shows changes in many things, like the blood pressure, which is a bit increased, the heart beats faster, the mouth may become dry, feeling of butterflies in the stomach. These emotional expressions are influenced by the autonomic NS.

What is the parasympathetic and sympathetic response?

Sympathetic response

The sympathetic system influences the body’s responses, and is responsible for the perceived threats, and is often denoted to as a fight or flight response.

Parasympathetic response

The parasympathetic system is quite contradictory to the other response that is sympathetic, it is responsible for slowing down the body, or relaxing it and is used to slow down the high-energy functions in the body.

What happens when the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are stimulated?

As we know the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems both work in the opposite way when both are stimulated then the situation is referred to as autonomic conflict. One is working as fight or flight while the other is working as rest and recovery. So we think that they may cancel the effect of each other but it’s not like that (Slonim, 2014).

When we talk about the heart, the sympathetic nervous system makes it work faster and stronger, while the parasympathetic is relaxing its heartbeat. The contraction of the heart is controlled by the parasympathetic. This somehow reduces the heartbeat rate.

Describe the different receptor activities specific to both the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. Where they are mainly located? What can be expected if the different receptors are activated? What can be expected if they are blocked?

The autonomic nervous system receptors act like an on/off button to control the body’s function with sympathetic and parasympathetic effects in the body.

If we talk about sympathetic receptors they are of three types that are alpha, and beta(1,2). First receptors (alpha) receptors are situated in the veins and arteries. After this receptor is activated the arteries tighten. This helps to increase blood pressure in the body. The beta 1 receptors are situated in the heart when it is activated the heartbeat is increased and the expansion and contraction power of the heart is increased. Beta 2 receptor is situated in the lung’s bronchioles. When it is stimulated, the size of the bronchioles is increased making it easier for the air to enter the lungs (Mancia, Grassi, 2014).

The parasympathetic receptors are of two types, named as muscarinic receptors and nicotinic receptors. This receptor is responsible for muscle contraction, when it is stimulated it can cause muscle paralysis by blocking these nicotinic receptors. After the muscarinic receptor is activated, the rate of heartbeat is decreased, and a decrease in the contraction of the heart also a reduction in the opening of bronchioles is observed. Whenever the body is relaxing and is at rest mode we can gentle down the heartbeat and save our energy in the body.


Mancia, G., & Grassi, G. (2014). The autonomic nervous system and hypertension. Circulation research114(11), 1804-1814.

Slonim, T. (2014). The polyvagal theory: Neuropsychological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication, & self-regulation. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy64(4), 593-600.

Dieleman, G. C., Huizink, A. C., Tulen, J. H., Utens, E. M., Creemers, H. E., van der Ende, J., & Verhulst, F. C. (2015). Alterations in HPA-axis and autonomic nervous system functioning in childhood anxiety disorders point to a chronic stress hypothesis. Psychoneuroendocrinology51, 135-150.



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