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The baroreceptors in the venae cavae and right atrium monitor blood pressure as the blood returns to the heart from the systemic circulation. Normally, blood flow into the aorta is the same as blood flow back into the right atrium. If blood is returning to the right atrium more rapidly than it is being ejected from the left ventricle, the atrial receptors will stimulate the cardiovascular centers to increase sympathetic firing and increase cardiac output until homeostasis is achieved. The opposite is also true. This mechanism is referred to as the atrial reflex    .

Chemoreceptor reflexes

In addition to the baroreceptors are chemoreceptors that monitor levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen ions (pH), and thereby contribute to vascular homeostasis. Chemoreceptors monitoring the blood are located in close proximity to the baroreceptors in the aortic and carotid sinuses. They signal the cardiovascular center as well as the respiratory centers in the medulla oblongata.

Since tissues consume oxygen and produce carbon dioxide and acids as waste products, when the body is more active, oxygen levels fall and carbon dioxide levels rise as cells undergo cellular respiration to meet the energy needs of activities. This causes more hydrogen ions to be produced, causing the blood pH to drop. When the body is resting, oxygen levels are higher, carbon dioxide levels are lower, more hydrogen is bound, and pH rises. (Seek additional content for more detail about pH.)

The chemoreceptors respond to increasing carbon dioxide and hydrogen ion levels (falling pH) by stimulating the cardioaccelerator and vasomotor centers, increasing cardiac output and constricting peripheral vessels. The cardioinhibitor centers are suppressed. With falling carbon dioxide and hydrogen ion levels (increasing pH), the cardioinhibitor centers are stimulated, and the cardioaccelerator and vasomotor centers are suppressed, decreasing cardiac output and causing peripheral vasodilation. In order to maintain adequate supplies of oxygen to the cells and remove waste products such as carbon dioxide, it is essential that the respiratory system respond to changing metabolic demands. In turn, the cardiovascular system will transport these gases to the lungs for exchange, again in accordance with metabolic demands. This interrelationship of cardiovascular and respiratory control cannot be overemphasized.

Other neural mechanisms can also have a significant impact on cardiovascular function. These include the limbic system that links physiological responses to psychological stimuli, as well as generalized sympathetic and parasympathetic stimulation.

Endocrine regulation

Endocrine control over the cardiovascular system involves the catecholamines, epinephrine and norepinephrine, as well as several hormones that interact with the kidneys in the regulation of blood volume.

Epinephrine and norepinephrine

The catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine are released by the adrenal medulla, and enhance and extend the body’s sympathetic or “fight-or-flight” response (see [link] ). They increase heart rate and force of contraction, while temporarily constricting blood vessels to organs not essential for flight-or-fight responses and redirecting blood flow to the liver, muscles, and heart.

Questions & Answers

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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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