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Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)

Chapter · January 2013


DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_822

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10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_822 http://www.springerlink.com/content/g051751u140h25h0/full...

Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine


Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013
10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_822
Marc D. Gellman and J. Rick Turner

Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)


1 2
Michael Richter and Rex A. Wright

(1) Department of Psychology, University of Geneva, 40, Bd. du Pont-d’Arve, Geneva, CH-1205, Switzerland
(2) College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology, University of North Texas, 1155 Union Circle #311280,
Denton, TX 76203-5017, USA

Michael Richter (Corresponding author)


Email: Michael.Richter@unige.ch

Rex A. Wright
Email: Rex.Wright@unt.edu

Without Abstract

Definition
The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is one of two main branches or subsystems of the
autonomic nervous system (ANS). It originates in the brain stem and sacral spinal cord and
commonly – but not always – yields peripheral adjustments that are complementary to those
produced by its counterpart, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).

Description
The parasympathetic nervous system is one of two main branches or subsystems of the
autonomic nervous system, the physical system responsible for nonconsciously maintaining bodily
homeostasis and coordinating bodily responses. Working with the second main branch, the
sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system regulates a wide range of
functions such as blood circulation, body temperature, respiration, and digestion. Parasympathetic
activation commonly leads to adjustments on organs and glands that are complementary to those
produced by sympathetic activation and suitable for low activity and bodily restoration (“rest and
digest” as opposed to “fight and flight”). Examples of low activity and restorative adjustments are
constriction of blood vessels in the lungs, increased gastric secretion, and decreased heart rate
and contraction force. Although parasympathetic adjustments tend to complement sympathetic
adjustments, they do not always. For example, both parasympathetic nervous system arousal and
sympathetic nervous system arousal increase salivary flow, although to different degrees and

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yielding different compositions of saliva.

Basic functional units of the parasympathetic nervous system are preganglionic and postganglionic
neurons. Preganglionic neurons have cell bodies in the brainstem or sacral spinal cord and axons
that extend to cell bodies of postganglionic neurons. Postganglionic neurons have cell bodies that
are clustered in so-called ganglia and relatively short axons that innervate target organs and
glands.

The major neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system is acetylcholine. It is the


neurotransmitter of all preganglionic and postganglionic neurons. Stimulation of the cholinergic
receptors of the nicotinergic subtype located on the cell bodies of the postganglionic neurons by
acetylcholine leads to an opening of nonspecific ion channels. This opening permits the transfer of
potassium and sodium ions, which depolarizes the postganglionic cell and initiates an action
potential in the postganglionic cells. Muscarinic cholinergic receptors are located on target organs
and glands. Stimulation of muscarinic receptors by acetylcholine activates G-proteins, which
trigger the effector response via a second-messenger pathway. Specific effects depend on the
innervated visceral structure. For instance, activation of the muscarinic receptors of the heart
muscle leads to reduced heart rate and heart contraction force. Stimulation of muscarinic receptors
of the salivary glands increases salivary flow.

In working jointly with the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system does
not function in an all-or-none fashion, but rather activates to different degrees. Depending on the
affected visceral structure and situation, it may be more or less active than the sympathetic
nervous system. Shifts in the magnitude of sympathetic and parasympathetic influence can occur
locally within a single visceral structure (e.g., the eye) or across visceral structures, with local shifts
occurring to meet highly specialized demands (e.g., a change in ambient light) and global shifts
adapting the body to large-scale environmental changes (e.g., the appearance of a substantial
physical threat). Autonomic control is maintained by structures in the central nervous system that
receive visceral information from an afferent (incoming) nervous system. A key central nervous
system structure is the hypothalamus, which integrates autonomic, somatic, and endocrine
responses that accompany different organism states.

Cross-References
Acetylcholine

Adrenaline

Autonomic Activation

Autonomic Balance

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

Epinephrine

Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)

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References and Readings


Berne, R. M., Levy, M. N., Koeppen, B. M., & Stanton, B. A. (2004). Physiology (5th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

Cacioppo, J. T., & Tassinary, L. G. (1990). Principles of psychophysiology: Physical, social, and inferential elements.
New York: Cambridge University Press.

Cacioppo, J. T., Tassinary, L. G., & Berntson, G. G. (2000). Handbook of psychophysiology (2nd ed.). New York:
Cambridge University Press.

Ganong, W. F. (2005). Review of medical physiology (22nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Levick, J. R. (2009). An introduction to cardiovascular physiology (5th ed.). London: Hodder.

3 of 3 09/21/2012 05:27 AM
P 1436 Paradoxal Sleep

Cross-References on the part of the groups of individuals is cap-


tured in the term “parallel group design.”
▶ Panic Attack The term controlled study is often heard in this
context. One group will receive the treatment of
interest and another group a control treatment,
against which responses during and at the end of
References and Readings
the treatment intervention are compared. Going
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic one step further, the term concurrently controlled
and statistical manual for mental disorders (Revised study makes clear that the different groups take
4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. part in their respective treatment arms at the same
Antony, M. M., & Swinson, R. P. (2000). Phobic disorder time. If all of the subjects in one treatment group
and panic in adults: A guide to assessment and treat-
ment. Washington, DC: American Psychological completed their participation first, and then all of
Association. the other subjects completed their participation at
Taylor, S. (2000). Understanding and treating panic dis- some later time, it is quite possible that other
order: Cognitive-behavioral approaches. New York: factors could confound the results.
Wiley.

Cross-References

Paradoxal Sleep ▶ Crossover Design


▶ Randomization
▶ REM Sleep

Parasympathetic
Parallel Group Design
▶ Autonomic Balance
J. Rick Turner
▶ Heart Rate Variability
Cardiovascular Safety, Quintiles, Durham,
NC, USA

Synonyms Parasympathetic Nervous


System (PNS)
Independent treatments group design
Michael Richter1 and Rex A. Wright2
1
Department of Psychology, University of
Definition Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
2
College of Arts and Sciences, Department of
A parallel group design is an experimental study Psychology, University of North Texas, Denton,
design in which each subject is randomized to TX, USA
one of two or more distinct treatment/interven-
tion groups. Those who are assigned to the same
treatment are referred to as a treatment group. Definition
While the treatments that these groups receive
differ, all groups are treated as equally as possible The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is
in all other regards, and they complete the same one of two main branches or subsystems of the
procedures during the study. This parallel activity autonomic nervous system (ANS). It originates in
Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) 1437 P
the brain stem and sacral spinal cord and cholinergic receptors of the nicotinergic subtype
commonly – but not always – yields peripheral located on the cell bodies of the postganglionic
adjustments that are complementary to those neurons by acetylcholine leads to an opening of
produced by its counterpart, the sympathetic nonspecific ion channels. This opening permits
nervous system (SNS). the transfer of potassium and sodium ions, which
depolarizes the postganglionic cell and initiates
an action potential in the postganglionic cells.
Description Muscarinic cholinergic receptors are located
on target organs and glands. Stimulation of
The parasympathetic nervous system is one muscarinic receptors by acetylcholine activates
of two main branches or subsystems of the G-proteins, which trigger the effector response
autonomic nervous system, the physical system via a second-messenger pathway. Specific effects
responsible for nonconsciously maintaining depend on the innervated visceral structure. For
bodily homeostasis and coordinating bodily instance, activation of the muscarinic receptors
responses. Working with the second main branch, of the heart muscle leads to reduced heart rate
the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympa- and heart contraction force. Stimulation of
thetic nervous system regulates a wide range of muscarinic receptors of the salivary glands
functions such as blood circulation, body temper- increases salivary flow.
ature, respiration, and digestion. Parasympathetic In working jointly with the sympathetic ner-
activation commonly leads to adjustments vous system, the parasympathetic nervous system
on organs and glands that are complementary does not function in an all-or-none fashion, but
to those produced by sympathetic activation and rather activates to different degrees. Depending
suitable for low activity and bodily restoration on the affected visceral structure and situation, it
(“rest and digest” as opposed to “fight and may be more or less active than the sympathetic
flight”). Examples of low activity and restorative nervous system. Shifts in the magnitude of
adjustments are constriction of blood vessels in sympathetic and parasympathetic influence can
the lungs, increased gastric secretion, and occur locally within a single visceral structure
decreased heart rate and contraction force. (e.g., the eye) or across visceral structures, with
Although parasympathetic adjustments tend to local shifts occurring to meet highly specialized
complement sympathetic adjustments, they do demands (e.g., a change in ambient light) and P
not always. For example, both parasympathetic global shifts adapting the body to large-scale
nervous system arousal and sympathetic nervous environmental changes (e.g., the appearance of
system arousal increase salivary flow, although to a substantial physical threat). Autonomic control
different degrees and yielding different composi- is maintained by structures in the central nervous
tions of saliva. system that receive visceral information from an
Basic functional units of the parasympathetic afferent (incoming) nervous system. A key
nervous system are preganglionic and postgan- central nervous system structure is the hypothal-
glionic neurons. Preganglionic neurons have cell amus, which integrates autonomic, somatic, and
bodies in the brainstem or sacral spinal cord and endocrine responses that accompany different
axons that extend to cell bodies of postganglionic organism states.
neurons. Postganglionic neurons have cell bodies
that are clustered in so-called ganglia and rela-
tively short axons that innervate target organs and Cross-References
glands.
The major neurotransmitter of the parasympa- ▶ Acetylcholine
thetic nervous system is acetylcholine. It is ▶ Adrenaline
the neurotransmitter of all preganglionic and ▶ Autonomic Activation
postganglionic neurons. Stimulation of the ▶ Autonomic Balance
P 1438 Paraventricular Nucleus

▶ Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)


▶ Epinephrine Parkinson’s Disease: Psychosocial
▶ Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) Aspects

Shawn McClintock, Matthieu Chansard and


References and Readings Mustafa M. Husain
Department of Psychiatry, The University of
Berne, R. M., Levy, M. N., Koeppen, B. M., & Stanton, Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
B. A. (2004). Physiology (5th ed.). St. Louis, MO:
Columbia University/New York State Psychiaric
Mosby.
Cacioppo, J. T., & Tassinary, L. G. (1990). Principles of Institute, Dallas, TX, USA
psychophysiology: Physical, social, and inferential
elements. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Cacioppo, J. T., Tassinary, L. G., & Berntson, G. G.
(2000). Handbook of psychophysiology (2nd ed.).
Synonyms
New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ganong, W. F. (2005). Review of medical physiology Degenerative parkinsonism; Parkinsonism;
(22nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Parkinson’s disease; PD; Secondary parkinsonism
Levick, J. R. (2009). An introduction to cardiovascular
physiology (5th ed.). London: Hodder.

Definition

Paraventricular Nucleus Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most


common neurodegenerative disorder and is char-
▶ Hypothalamus acterized by motoric symptoms of resting tremor,
rigidity, bradykinesia, and gait disturbance.
The psychosocial aspects of PD involve the inter-
action of PD symptomatology, psychological
Parent-Child Concordance development and function, personal relation-
ships, and environmental factors.
▶ Family Aggregation

Description

Parent-Rated Life Orientation Test of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common neurode-


Children (P-LOT) generative disorder that affects approximately
between 500,000 and a million Americans of all
▶ Optimism and Pessimism: Measurement races and ethnic groups, and 0.3% (5 million) of
the world’s population. Pathologically, PD is an
inexorably progressive disorder of unknown
cause in which neurons of the substantia nigra
Parietal progressively degenerate resulting in greater
degrees of brain dopamine deficiency. In addi-
▶ Brain, Cortex tion, a number of other neuronal pathways
degenerate including cholinergic, noradrenergic,
and serotonergic pathways. Primary motor
manifestations of PD include resting tremor,
Parkinson’s Disease bradykinesia (e.g., slowed motor ability), rigid-
ity, and gait disturbance. Important clinical fea-
▶ Parkinson’s Disease: Psychosocial Aspects tures to establish the diagnosis of PD include

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