C7 C8 T1

Ulnar n.

Radius

Figure 11.34

Nerves of the brachial plexus.

Typically, these efferent fibers lead to ganglia outside the central nervous system. The impulses they carry are integrated within the ganglia and are relayed to various organs (muscles or glands) that respond by contracting, secreting, or being inhibited. The integrative function of the ganglia provides the autonomic nervous system with some degree of independence from the brain and spinal cord, and the visceral efferent nerve fibers associated with these ganglia comprise the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system includes two divisions, called the sympathetic (sim"pah-thet'ik) and parasympathetic (par"ah-sim"pah-thet'ik) divisions, that interact. For example, many organs have nerve fibers from each of the divisions. Impulses on one set of fibers may activate an organ, whereas impulses on the other set inhibit it. Thus, the divisions may function antagonistically, regulating the actions of some organs by alternately activating or inhibiting them.

The functions of the autonomic divisions are varied; that is, each activates some organs and inhibits others. This reveals that the divisions have important functional differences. The sympathetic division primarily prepares the body for energy-expending, stressful, or emergency situations. Conversely, the parasympathetic division is most active under ordinary, restful conditions. It also counterbalances the effects of the sympathetic division and restores the body to a resting state following a stressful experience. For example, during an emergency, the sympathetic division increases heart and breathing rates; following the emergency, the parasympa-thetic division decreases these activities.

Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.

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