The portion of the nervous system that controls most visceral functions of the body is called the autonomic nervous system. This system helps to control arterial pressure, gastrointestinal motility, gastrointestinal secretion, urinary bladder emptying, sweating, body temperature, and many other activities, some of which are controlled almost entirely and some only partially by the autonomic nervous system.
One of the most striking characteristics of the autonomic nervous system is the rapidity and intensity with which it can change visceral functions. For instance, within 3 to 5 seconds it can increase the heart rate to twice normal, and within 10 to 15 seconds the arterial pressure can be doubled; or, at the other extreme, the arterial pressure can be decreased low enough within 10 to 15 seconds to cause fainting. Sweating can begin within seconds, and the urinary bladder may empty involuntarily, also within seconds.
Was this article helpful?
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.