From digestion to blood pressure: What do we know about autonomic function?

10th Jan 2019

Brain and Neuroscience Advances HeaderControlling vital functions such as your heart rhythm, digestion and breathing, the autonomic nervous system has been researched extensively for the past 50 years.

This review article by Coote and Spyer (2018), published in the BNA’s official journal ‘Brain and Neuroscience Advances’ summarizes what has been discovered in the past 50 years.

For instance, the article states that researchers have shown that spinal interneurons, connecting motor and sensory neurons, are important for integrating, changing and creating neuronal activity.

Furthermore, the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) in the hypothalamus receives information from chemoreceptors, osmoreceptors measuring changes in osmotic pressure and from arteries about blood pressure and volume. It is therefore thought that the PVN plays a vital role in automatic control.

In the bladder, contraction of the bladder detrusor muscle is dependent on activity changes of neurons when the pressure in the bladder is high enough, which allows emptying of the bladder.

Other topics discussed in the article are the role of the brainstem and the medulla and preganglionic organisation.

Improved knowledge of autonomic function can lead to new drugs and therapies for a variety of diseases, such as deep brain stimulation to treat incontinence in people with Parkinson’s. Autonomic function research is therefore incredibly important in the future.

To access the full article, click here

Coote, J.H. and Spyer, K.M., 2018. Central control of autonomic function. Brain and Neuroscience Advances

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