autonomic nervous system

autonomic nervous system


Pathways of the autonomic nervous system. Nerve impulses begin in motor neurons in the brain or …—© Merriam-Webster Inc.

Part of the nervous system that is not under conscious control and that regulates the internal organs. It includes the sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric nervous systems. The first, which connects the internal organs to the brain via spinal nerves, responds to stress by increasing heart rate and blood flow to the muscles and decreasing blood flow to the skin. The second comprises the cranial nerves and the lower spinal nerves, which increase digestive secretions and slow the heartbeat. Both have sensory fibres that send feedback on the condition of internal organs to the central nervous system, information that helps maintain homeostasis. The third division, embedded in the walls of the stomach and intestines, controls digestive movement and secretions.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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