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Question Video: Outlining the Main Purpose of the Autonomic Nervous System Biology

The diagram shows how the peripheral nervous system and its motor division are divided into their component parts. What is the primary function of the autonomic nervous system?

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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 autonomic nervous system? (A) To transmit information to muscles and glands that are not under voluntary or conscious control. (B) To transmit information to muscles and glands that are under voluntary or conscious control and to mediate reflex actions.

This question asks us specifically about the autonomic nervous system, which is one of the two subdivisions of the motor division, and to recall its function. To answer this question, let’s review what we know about how the peripheral nervous system is organized. Notice that the peripheral nervous system is subdivided two times. Each of these divisions controls a specific set of functions in our body.

First, the peripheral nervous system is divided into the sensory and motor division. The names of these subdivisions detail their specific functions within the body. The sensory division contains sensory neurons that collect information from the inside of our bodies as well as the external environment. This sensory information is then transmitted to the central nervous system to be integrated and processed.

The motor division contains motor neurons, which carry impulses from the brain to muscles, glands, or organs to carry out an appropriate response to the gathered sensory information. However, since there is a wide variety in the motor responses to be carried out, the motor division is further subdivided one more time.

The two subdivisions of the motor division are the somatic and autonomic nervous systems, which differ based on the type of motor function to be carried out. The somatic nervous system is the subdivision that regulates voluntary and conscious activities. The somatic nervous system requires the action of the skeletal muscles. In contrast, the autonomic nervous system is the subdivision that regulates involuntary, subconscious, automatic activities. The autonomic nervous system requires the action of the smooth muscles.

Since autonomic and automatic sound similar, we can use this as a hint to remember the functions of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system functions, such as controlling heart rate, blood pressure, swallowing, and even breathing, are done without conscious thought.

Now that we’ve discussed the functions of the autonomic nervous system, we know that the correct answer will describe muscles and glands that are under involuntary and subconscious control. With this information, we are now able to answer the question. The primary function of the autonomic nervous system is to transmit information to the muscles and glands that are not under voluntary or conscious control.

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