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Question Video: Describing the Effects of the Sympathetic Nervous System Biology

The table shows the effect of the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous systems on some major organs and glands. The adrenal medulla is part of the adrenal gland that produces adrenaline and noradrenaline. What effect does the sympathetic nervous system have on the adrenal medulla?

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Video Transcript

The table provided shows the effect of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems on some major organs and glands. The adrenal medulla is part of the adrenal gland that produces adrenaline and noradrenaline. What effect does the sympathetic nervous system have on the adrenal medulla? (A) Activation of the adrenal medulla. (B) Inhibition of the adrenal medulla. (C) No effect on the adrenal medulla.

This question is asking us to recall the function of the sympathetic nervous system and how it affects the functions of the major organs and glands. So to answer this question, let’s review what we know about the sympathetic nervous system and its specific impact on the organs like the adrenal gland.

You may recall that the autonomic nervous system is the part of the peripheral nervous system that is responsible for the involuntary motor functions of the body. There are two subdivisions of the autonomic nervous system that work in opposition to one another: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

The parasympathetic nervous system is active during times of rest, relaxation, and feeding, so its responses are called the rest-and-digest responses. In contrast, the sympathetic nervous system takes over in times of stress when the body is preparing for action, so its responses are termed the fight-or-flight responses.

So, if the goal of the nervous response is to decrease activity, the responses are under the control of the parasympathetic nervous system, while if the goal of the nervous system is to increase activity, it is the sympathetic nervous system that is in control of responses.

We can use the knowledge we just recalled about the actions of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems to complete the table for the adrenal medulla. As we just reviewed, the goal of the parasympathetic nervous system is to decrease activity, so the effect of the parasympathetic nervous system on the adrenal medulla would be to decrease activity.

From the question, we know that the adrenal medulla produces adrenaline and noradrenaline. So, a reduction in activity would mean the adrenal medulla would reduce or inhibit production of adrenaline and noradrenaline.

Also from what we reviewed, we know that the goal of the sympathetic nervous system is to increase activity. So the effect of the sympathetic nervous system on the adrenal medulla would be to increase activity. Therefore, when the sympathetic nervous system takes over, the adrenal medulla is activated, triggering the production of adrenaline and noradrenaline, resulting in the body’s fight-or-flight responses.

With this information, we are now ready to answer the question. The effect of the sympathetic nervous system on the adrenal medulla is activation of the adrenal medulla.

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