The baroreceptors respond extremely rapidly to changes in arterial pressure; in fact, the rate of impulse firing increases in the fraction of a second during each systole and decreases again during diastole. Furthermore, the baroreceptors respond much more to a rapidly changing pressure than to a stationary pressure. That is, if the mean arterial pressure is 150 mm Hg but at that moment is rising rapidly, the rate of impulse transmission may be as much as twice that when the pressure is stationary at 150 mm Hg.

Circulatory Reflex Initiated by the Baroreceptors. After the baroreceptor signals have entered the tractus solitar-ius of the medulla, secondary signals inhibit the vasoconstrictor center of the medulla and excite the vagal parasympathetic center. The net effects are (1) vasodi-lation of the veins and arterioles throughout the peripheral circulatory system and (2) decreased heart rate and strength of heart contraction. Therefore, excitation of the baroreceptors by high pressure in the arteries reflexly causes the arterial pressure to decrease because of both a decrease in peripheral resistance and a decrease in cardiac output. Conversely, low pressure has opposite effects, reflexly causing the pressure to rise back toward normal.

Figure 18-7 shows a typical reflex change in arterial pressure caused by occluding the two common carotid arteries. This reduces the carotid sinus pressure; as a result, the baroreceptors become inactive and lose their inhibitory effect on the vasomotor center. The vasomotor center then becomes much more active than usual, causing the aortic arterial pressure to rise and remain elevated during the 10 minutes that the


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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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