The peripheral nervous system, or PNS, consists of the nerves and ganglia outside of the brain and spinal cord. The main function of the PNS is to connect the central nervous system (CNS) to the limbs and organs. Unlike the CNS, the PNS is not protected by the bone of spine and skull, or by the blood-brain barrier, leaving it exposed to toxins and mechanical injuries. The peripheral nervous system is divided into the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system; some textbooks also include sensory systems.
The cranial nerves are part of the PNS.
There are two types of neurons, carrying nerve impulses in different directions. These two groups of neurons are:
The peripheral nervous system is functionally as well as structurally divided into the somatic nervous system and autonomic nervous system. The somatic nervous system is responsible for coordinating the body movements, and also for receiving external stimuli. It is the system that regulates activities that are under conscious control. The autonomic nervous system is then split into the sympathetic division, parasympathetic division, and enteric division. The sympathetic nervous system responds to impending danger, and is responsible for the increase of one's heartbeat and blood pressure, among other physiological changes, along with the sense of excitement one feels due to the increase of adrenaline in the system. ("fight or flight" responses). The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is evident when a person is resting and feels relaxed, and is responsible for such things as the constriction of the pupil, the slowing of the heart, the dilation of the blood vessels, and the stimulation of the digestive and genitourinary systems. ("rest and digest" responses). The role of the enteric nervous system is to manage every aspect of digestion, from the esophagus to the stomach, small intestine and colon.
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