Efferent pathways of autonomic nervous system

The efferent pathways of the ANS consist of two neurons that transmit impulses from the CNS to the effector tissue. The preganglionic neuron originates in the CNS with its cell body in the lateral horn of the gray matter of the spinal cord or in the brainstem. The axon of this neuron travels to an autonomic ganglion located outside the CNS, where it synapses with a postganglionic neuron. This neuron innervates the effector tissue.

Synapses between the autonomic postganglionic neuron and effector tissue — the neuroeffector junction — differ greatly from the neuron-to-neuron synapses discussed previously in Chapter 5 (see Table 9.1). The postgangli-onic fibers in the ANS do not terminate in a single swelling like the synaptic knob, nor do they synapse directly with the cells of a tissue. Instead, the axon terminals branch and contain multiple swellings called varicosities that lie across the surface of the tissue. When the neuron is stimulated, these varicosities release neurotransmitter over a large surface area of the effector tissue. This diffuse release of the neurotransmitter affects many tissue cells simultaneously. Furthermore, cardiac muscle and most smooth muscle have gap junctions between cells. These specialized intercellular communications allow for spread of electrical activity from one cell to the next. As a result, the discharge of a single autonomic nerve fiber to an effector tissue may alter activity of the entire tissue.

Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.

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