How Does the Brain Communicate with the Rest of the Body?

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*How does the brain communicate with the rest of the body? How is the autonomic branch of the peripheral nervous system involved in controlling emotions? The nervous system as a whole includes the Central Nervous System, consisting of brain and spinal cord, and the Peripheral Nervous System, whose nerve fibres connect all parts of the body with the central nervous system. The Peripheral Nervous System is further subdivided into two branches, the Somatic Nervous system and the Autonomic Nervous System. All these nerves are outside the Central Nervous System. The Somatic Nervous System controls musculoskeletal movement, and conducts sensory messages from the body to the CNS. (model is increasing decentralisation) The Autonomic Nervous System has two branches, the Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic, which regulate the involuntary processes of the body, the viscera, and sense organs, glands and blood vessels. In evolutionary terms it is older than the CNS and its anatomical circuitry is broadly dispersed, creating a general response, quite unlike the highly specific pathways and response of the CNS. This generalised, widely distributed structure enables it to mediate overall changes in state; it is part of the limbic system which has also been known as the mammalian or emotional brain. It was called autonomic because it was believed to function autonomously – we now know that it is dynamically related to many other parts of the brain especially the orbitofrontal cortex. Autonomic also means self-regulating and this is a key principle of all body systems, which depend of constant feedback in order to maintain homeostasis. There are multiple feedback loops in the body which continually send and receive information about what’s going on and the ANS is part of this wider complex. In standard physiology the two parts of the ANS have been perceived as functioning reciprocally: the sympathetic governing arousal, the fight or flight reaction and the parasympathetic...
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