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Question Video: Identifying Processes Controlled by the Somatic Nervous System Biology

Consider the following activities and processes: 1. Dilation and constriction of pupils, 2. Kicking a ball, 3. Breathing, 4. Digestion and 5. Scratching an ear. Which of the following choices shows the activities or processes controlled by the somatic nervous system? [A] 1, 3, and four [B] 2 only [C] 2 and 5 [D] 1 and 3 [E] 2 and 4

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Video Transcript

Consider the following activities and processes: one, dilation and constriction of pupils; two, kicking a ball; three, breathing; four, digestion; and five, scratching an ear. Which of the following choices shows the activities or processes controlled by the somatic nervous system? (A) one, three, and four; (B) two only; (C) two and five; (D) one and three; (E) two and four.

This question asks us about the somatic nervous system. So to answer this question, we must recall the function of the somatic nervous system and compare it to the actions listed.

The somatic nervous system is one division of the peripheral nervous system. First, the peripheral nervous system is divided into two main divisions: the sensory and motor divisions. While the sensory division collects and transmits all sensory inputs, the motor division mediates all motor outputs or motor responses.

The motor division is further divided into two divisions: the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. These two divisions use distinct networks of neurons to accomplish distinct tasks. The somatic nervous system controls the voluntary actions in the body. It transmits impulses coming from the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, to the skeletal muscles. Since we have control over performing them or not, these are the movements that we decide consciously, such as kicking a ball or scratching an ear.

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for involuntary movement. Autonomic sounds very similar to automatic, which can actually be a helpful way to remember what the autonomic nervous system controls. These actions do not need to be consciously controlled, such as breathing, digestion, and even constriction and dilation of the pupil.

So to answer this question, we must identify which activities and processes are voluntarily controlled and therefore under the control of the somatic nervous system. Therefore, the voluntary actions controlled by the somatic nervous system are activities number two, kicking a ball, and number five, scratching an ear.

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