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What is the difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems?


Test your knowledge of the functions of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems by answering the following questions. If you get stuck on any of them, you'll find the answers in the article below.


1. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are sub-systems of the ______________ nervous system.


2. The ____________ nervous system provides is responsible for the "fight or flight" reaction.


3. The "fight or flight" reaction __________ the blood pressure and heart rate.


4. The _______________ system increases blood supply to the skin and the gastrointestinal tract.



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What is the difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems?



The two subsystems of the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic, work together in an essentially antagonistic way.


The sympathetic nervous system provides responses needed to cope with stressful, "fight or flight" type situations such as fear or extremes of physical activity. In response to such stress, it raises the blood pressure and heart rate, diverts blood from the skin and gastrointestinal tract (to increase the blood supply to the skeletal muscles), dilates the pupils and the bronchioles (to provide improved vision and oxygenation), decreases salivary gland secretion (giving a dry mouth), and decreases intestinal activity.


After such stressful situations, the body needs to recover, rest, and gain new energy. These tasks are under the control of the parasympathetic system, which lowers the blood pressure and heart rate, diverts blood back to the skin and the gastrointestinal tract, contracts the pupils and bronchioles, stimulates salivary gland secretion, and accelerates intestinal activity.



Reference: Clinically Oriented Anatomy, Moore


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