BI 231 - Human Physiology and Anatomy
Synapses and Autonomic Nervous System Study Guide

Compiled by Pat Bowne, Sherry Dollhopf,and Justin LaManna, 2007-11


The human brain is the command center for the entire body and functions much like the brain of other animals. Many of the more complex functions of the brain, such as memory, reasoning, personality, and emotion are not fully understood.
A much better understood function of the brain is the regulation of homeostasis through control of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is divided into two parts - the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. The two systems are responsible for maintaining homeostasis through the control of our organs and blood vessels.

Before class, make sure you:

Can explain action potential and cell firing

Can sketch and explain the structure and function of a synapse

Tutorials and reading assignment:

REVIEW the sympathetic system at:

Chapter 7 sec 7.5

Chapter 8, p. 206-240

Chapter 9, p. 244-260

What you should know for the assessment:

--DESCRIBE the general anatomy of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems

--EXPLAIN the function of norepinephrine and epinephrine (noradrenaline and adrenaline) in the sympathetic nervous system and how they interact with different adrenergic receptors to excite or inhibit different organs, capillaries and tissues.

--COMPARE and CONTRAST sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system functions.

--EXPLAIN the difference between cholinergic and adrenergic neurons and receptors.

--EXPLAIN the difference between nicotinic and muscarinic receptors.

--DESCRIBE and DIAGRAM how the binding of acetylcholine to muscarinic receptors in the parasympathetic nervous system excites or inhibits organs, capillaries and tissues.

Autonomic System terms to know

Synapse function terms to know

Practice Questions

WRITE complete answers to the following questions. Back up your answers with logical arguments based on physiological concepts.

A. Bethanechol is a muscarinic agonist with no nicotinic effects. What does that mean?
If somebody took this drug, which of the following side effects would you predict and why: abdominal cramps, asthmatic attack (bronchoconstriction), decreased tear production, decreased salivation, trembling, increased heart rate, dilation of pupils, and/or excessive sweating?

B. Bob read an article about alpha-2 agonists being used for patients undergoing general anesthesia. He only skimmed the abstract, but he thinks the article says that alpha-2 agonists are also useful for reducing blood pressure and helping decrease panic attacks. Does this make sense? Why or why not?
Bob is thinking of taking alpha-2 agonists for his high blood pressure, but his doctor says not to try them. The doctor says they are a bad idea for somebody who already has low insulin levels and a high blood sugar. Does this make sense? Why or why not?

More practice questions:

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