The Autonomic Nervous System

Critical Thinking Questions


In the context of a lioness hunting on the savannah, why would the sympathetic system not activate the digestive system?


A target effector, such as the heart, receives input from the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. What is the actual difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions at the level of those connections (i.e., at the synapse)?


Damage to internal organs will present as pain associated with a particular surface area of the body. Why would something like irritation to the diaphragm, which is between the thoracic and abdominal cavities, feel like pain in the shoulder or neck?


Medical practice is paying more attention to the autonomic system in considering disease states. Why would autonomic tone be important in considering cardiovascular disease?


Horner’s syndrome is a condition that presents with changes in one eye, such as pupillary constriction and dropping of eyelids, as well as decreased sweating in the face. Why could a tumor in the thoracic cavity have an effect on these autonomic functions?


The cardiovascular center is responsible for regulating the heart and blood vessels through homeostatic mechanisms. What tone does each component of the cardiovascular system have? What connections does the cardiovascular center invoke to keep these two systems in their resting tone?


Why does smoking increase the risk of heart disease? Provide two reasons based on autonomic function.


Why might topical, cosmetic application of atropine or scopolamine from the belladonna plant not cause fatal poisoning, as would occur with ingestion of the plant?