Higher Levels of Autonomic Control

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Chapter: Anatomy and Physiology for Health Professionals: Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

Levels of somatic nervous system (SNS) and PNS activity are linked to specific visceral functions that are regulated by areas of the brain stem.


Higher Levels of Autonomic Control

Levels of somatic nervous system (SNS) and PNS activity are linked to specific visceral functions that are regulated by areas of the brain stem. Simple reflexes of the ANS that are based in the spinal cord provide fast, automatic responses to stimuli. The medulla ­oblongata has processing centers that coordinate more complex reflexes. Aside from the cardiovascular and respiratory centers, the medulla oblongata also influences diges-tive secretions, peristalsis, salivation, swallowing, and urinary function. The medulla oblongata’s centers are regulated by the hypothalamus. It was first believed that the visceral regulatory centers operated autono-mously of other CNS activities. However, research has shown that this is not true. The hypothalamus inter-acts with all other areas of the brain. Therefore, limbic system activity and actions of the thalamus or cerebral cortex can greatly affect autonomic function.

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