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Question Video: Defining the Function of the Somatic Nervous System Biology

The diagram provided shows how the peripheral nervous system and its motor division are divided into their component parts. What is the primary function of the somatic nervous system? [A] To transmit information to muscles that are under voluntary or conscious control and to mediate reflex actions. [B] To transmit information to muscles and glands that are not under voluntary or conscious control.

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Video Transcript

The diagram provided shows how the peripheral nervous system and its motor division are divided into their component parts. What is the primary function of the somatic nervous system? (A) To transmit information to muscles that are under voluntary or conscious control and to mediate reflex actions. (B) To transmit information to muscles and glands that are not under voluntary or conscious control.

This question is asking us to recall the function of the somatic nervous system. To answer this question, let’s review how the motor division of the peripheral nervous system is organized. The motor division of the peripheral nervous system can be subdivided based on the types of motor responses. The motor division handles two types of motor responses: voluntary motor responses and involuntary motor responses.

Voluntary motor responses are made by choice and require awareness. These motor movements can be as simple as flipping on a light switch in a dark room. Voluntary motor responses are carried out by skeletal muscles and use somatic nerves in order to connect the brain and spinal cord to the skeletal muscles. So voluntary muscles are controlled by the somatic nervous system.

Involuntary motor responses are automatic and do not require awareness in order to be carried out. Many of the involuntary motor responses are executed by smooth muscle and therefore can never be under voluntary control. An example of this would be breathing or digestion. While we know we need to perform these actions, they occur without our awareness. So involuntary muscles are controlled by the autonomic nervous system.

With this information, we can now answer the question. The primary function of the somatic nervous system is to transmit information to muscles that are under voluntary or conscious control and to mediate reflex actions.

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