Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Autonomic Nervous System
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.
Current as of:
February 19, 2016
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & G. Frederick Wooten, MD - Neurology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
I Want To...
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.