Compare and contrast the two divisions of the Autonomic Nervous System: the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions.

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chickflik999 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are both part of the autonomic nervous system. This means that they are both responsive for unconcious operations of the body, such as digestion and breathing.

The sympathetic system and parasympathetic system work in opposite ways to each other. If we compared the human body to a car, the sympathetic system would be the accelerator and the parasympathetic system the brake. The sympathetic nervous system is always working to remain homeostasis, or keep your body temperature stable. The sympathetic nervous system really kicks in when we are stressed or our body goes into flight or fight mode.  It causes your heart to beat faster, you to breathe more quickly, your blood vessels to constrict, and your digestion to slow. All of this is done to protect your body in the case of a threat. On the other hand, the parasympathetic system works in slowing down your body functions. Its function includes activities that happen when we are at rest, including sexual arousal, salivation, crying, urination, digestion, and defecating. Both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system play an important role in the function of our body.

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jjrichardson | Student

The autonomic nervous system has two branches and are "automatic" The sympathetic and the parasympathetic.  The sympathetic nervous system revs up you body and heart when  stressed or alert.  The parasympathetic nervous system helps to calm the body down when being peaceful or asleep.