Diaphragm Mediates Action of Autonomic and Enteric Nervous Systems

Posted on February 6, 2012


On January 8, 2010, in Psychophysiology, submitted by Stephen Elliott
The abdomen and its internal organs, principally the gut, is governed by the enteric nervous system, a very complex and sophisticated nervous function of the body. The enteric nervous system has a great deal of autonomy in its action and for this reason it is often referred to as the “gut brain”. The enteric nervous system itself  is innervated by sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves of the autonomic nervous system which we established above are highly influenced, in effect “regulated”, by diaphragmatic action.

However, where in the thoracic cavity an increase in sympathetic activity as a consequence of inhalation yields increased activity (i.e., an increase in heart rate), below the diaphragm in the abdominal cavity, the same increase in sympathetic activity yields an inhibitory effect on the enteric nervous system, which slows digestive action (i.e., the secretion of conducting fluids), locomotion, and a myriad of other complex digestive activities. The opposite is also true – whereas in the thoracic cavity an increase in parasympathetic emphasis as a consequence of exhalation results in slowing of the heart rate, in the abdominal cavity, increased parasympathetic emphasis (vagal nerve) stimulates the enteric nervous system which responds by increasing digestive activity.

This opposite action above and below the diaphragm has to do with how sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous signals are interpreted. In the thoracic cavity (above the diaphragm), upon inhalation pressure decreases (becomes more negative) and heart rate accelerates to the net influence of increasing sympathetic action involving increased secretion of nor-epinephrine acting on adrenergic receptors of the heart, and decreasing parasympathetic action involving decreased secretion of acetylcholine serving to deactivate cholinergic receptors of the heart, thereby diminishing vagal inhibitory affect – the net effect is increased heart rate. Below the diaphragm, upon inhalation pressure increases and all of the organs of the abdomen are compressed. The increased secretion of nor-epinephrine that results in activation of adrenergic receptors in the heart, has the opposite effect on the enteric nervous system, inhibiting its action and  “slowing” digestion.

continuare:  http://www.bmedreport.com/archives/8309

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