The autonomic nervous system controls all "automatic" body
functions, such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, sweating,
mouth-watering (salivating), and the movement of food through the intestines
One part of the autonomic nervous system, called the sympathetic nervous system, reacts when a person is facing a
dangerous or frightening situation and will automatically increase the heart
rate and breathing and move blood to the muscles.
The other part of the autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, helps the body return to normal after the threat is over. It will automatically lower heart rate and breathing and move blood back to the rest of the body (for example, the digestive system or reproductive system).
The autonomic nervous system differs from the voluntary nervous
system, which allows a person to control the muscles and body movements.
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & G. Frederick Wooten, MD - Neurology
The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.