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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Compare the structure of somatic and autonomic reflex arcs
  • Explain the differences in sympathetic and parasympathetic reflexes
  • Differentiate between short and long reflexes
  • Determine the effect of the autonomic nervous system on the regulation of the various organ systems on the basis of the signaling molecules involved
  • Describe the effects of drugs that affect autonomic function

The autonomic nervous system regulates organ systems through circuits that resemble the reflexes described in the somatic nervous system. The main difference between the somatic and autonomic systems is in what target tissues are effectors. Somatic responses are solely based on skeletal muscle contraction. The autonomic system, however, targets cardiac and smooth muscle, as well as glandular tissue. Whereas the basic circuit is a reflex arc    , there are differences in the structure of those reflexes for the somatic and autonomic systems.

The structure of reflexes

One difference between a somatic reflex    , such as the withdrawal reflex, and a visceral reflex    , which is an autonomic reflex, is in the efferent branch    . The output of a somatic reflex is the lower motor neuron in the ventral horn of the spinal cord that projects directly to a skeletal muscle to cause its contraction. The output of a visceral reflex is a two-step pathway starting with the preganglionic fiber emerging from a lateral horn neuron in the spinal cord, or a cranial nucleus neuron in the brain stem, to a ganglion—followed by the postganglionic fiber projecting to a target effector. The other part of a reflex, the afferent branch    , is often the same between the two systems. Sensory neurons receiving input from the periphery—with cell bodies in the sensory ganglia, either of a cranial nerve or a dorsal root ganglion adjacent to the spinal cord—project into the CNS to initiate the reflex ( [link] ). The Latin root “effere” means “to carry.” Adding the prefix “ef-” suggests the meaning “to carry away,” whereas adding the prefix “af-” suggests “to carry toward or inward.”

Comparison of somatic and visceral reflexes

The top panel in this figure shows the autonomic efferent pathway. The spinal cord is shown on the left, and a myelinated axon is shown going from the spinal cord to the central neuron. An unmyelinated axon is shown going from the central neuron to the target effector. The bottom panel shows the somatic efferent pathway. The spinal cord is shown on the left, and a myelinated axon is shown going from the spinal cord to the target effector director. In both cases, magnified images show the synapses.
The afferent inputs to somatic and visceral reflexes are essentially the same, whereas the efferent branches are different. Somatic reflexes, for instance, involve a direct connection from the ventral horn of the spinal cord to the skeletal muscle. Visceral reflexes involve a projection from the central neuron to a ganglion, followed by a second projection from the ganglion to the target effector.

Afferent branch

The afferent branch of a reflex arc does differ between somatic and visceral reflexes in some instances. Many of the inputs to visceral reflexes are from special or somatic senses, but particular senses are associated with the viscera that are not part of the conscious perception of the environment through the somatic nervous system. For example, there is a specific type of mechanoreceptor, called a baroreceptor    , in the walls of the aorta and carotid sinuses that senses the stretch of those organs when blood volume or pressure increases. You do not have a conscious perception of having high blood pressure, but that is an important afferent branch of the cardiovascular and, particularly, vasomotor reflexes. The sensory neuron is essentially the same as any other general sensory neuron. The baroreceptor apparatus is part of the ending of a unipolar neuron that has a cell body in a sensory ganglion. The baroreceptors from the carotid arteries have axons in the glossopharyngeal nerve, and those from the aorta have axons in the vagus nerve.

Questions & Answers

how many type of system
Pathias Reply
Two types
Musoke
Respiratory system and Circulatory system
Musoke
6 types of systems
Bkv
Namely:?
Musoke
integumentary system, cardiovascular system, nervous system, digestive system, endocrine system, urinary system.
Atabong
there are many more
Atabong
Thanx
Musoke
What is anatomy !?
Arun Reply
the study of different parts of body to discover situation structure and economy
Aurelia
Anatomy is a study of structure of the body parts and it's consistents. Anatomy is a Greek word which means to cut up
Asma
Which book is perfect for anatomy ? among BD , Vishram , Gray's !?
Arun
iama Student of 1st year
Arun
Ashalata Anatomy text book
Johanna
The study of various body structures and their relationship with one another
Onwochie
Ross and Wilson's anatomy textbook
Onwochie
Anatomy is the study of human structure, functions and other relative organs in the system
Ayorinde
ross and willson book
Tifu
the study of structure unite of body
Faisal
thanks to all
Arun
Does anyone Read A.K dutta?
Arun
refer to the study of human body structure
SAID
Anatomy is study of internal structures of organisms as seen by naked eye
Bkv
which nerve orginates from pons
Kripa Reply
trigeminal nerve
madhuri
demand and supply rules
jamac Reply
compative demand and supply
jamac
compare demand and supply
jamac
what are simple epithelial tissues
Ushie Reply
is a type of tissue which covers the external and internal part of the body
Fatou
more information would be better understanding.
Tasha
It consist of a single layer of identical cells
Bkv
what is platelets
Lilian Reply
platelet is also known as thrombocyte.thrombo means clot.it is a formed element of blood formed from fragment of megakaryocyte surrounded by plasma membrane in the redbone marow
Adeyemo
what is diabetes insipidus
namrata Reply
it is an infection due to less or no secretion of ADH characterized by excretion of dilute urine
Meshack
Infection? I don't think any form of diabetes, whether it's mellitus or insipidus, is caused by an infection.
Matias
ya
Akanyijuka
it is the disorder of salt & water metabolism
Emma
diabetes inspidus is a condition were the liver can't produce insulin to convert the excess sugar to glycogen.
mangs
sorry that is for diabetes mellitus
mangs
what is septal cartilage
Arthur Reply
I don't understand please
Esther Reply
hey
Austine
good evening boss
Austine
Evening
Esther
good evening
Melissa
evening
Vitus
hi
Rodgers
good morning
Aurelia
hello
Helsa
you guys are from ?
Aurelia
Philippines
Helsa
im from india
Aurelia
Hello
Amos
why
Sami
wat
Rodgers
what's that
Gift
what's the medulla?
alhussiney Reply
The medulla oblongata or simply medulla is a long stem-like structure which makes up the lower part of the brainstem. It is anterior and partially inferior to the cerebellum
Ludmila
define bone in simple terms
Mhoses Reply
bones are made up by collagen and calcium phosphate
Aurelia
yes
Confidence
Bones are the hard large calcareous connective tissue of which the adult skeleton of most vertebrates is chiefly composed
Olalekan
Bone is the substance that forms skeleton
Frances
good morning
Mrinal
Skelton muscles is any disorder of calcium
Mrinal
Bones protect the various organs of the body
Celina
Bone is a hard strong and durable type of connective tissue
Bkv
bone is a hard, calcareous connective tissue which gives structural support to the body and helpless in its locomotion!
Divya
It also is the main site for synthesis of the RBCs
Divya
thanks for your answers
Mhoses
A diagram of epithelial tissue
Emmanuel Reply
What does the urinary regulate blood pressure
Jennifer Reply
functions of melatonin
marion Reply
d. inversely proportional
John Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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