Author: Gordana Sendic•Reviewer: Alexandru Andrușca MD, PhDLast reviewed: September 09, 2021Reading time: 11 minutes

Parasympathetic nervous mechanism anatomy

The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) is a department of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) that controls the task of the smooth and also cardiac muscles and also glands. It functions in synergy with the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which complements the PSNS task. The parasympathetic nervous device is also called the craniosacral division of the ANS, as its main nervous system components are located within the brain and also the sacral portion of the spinal cord.

The features of the PNS are typically defined as the “rest and also digest” response, because it is involved in slowing dvery own the heart rate, relaxing the sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts and also raising intestinal and gland task. The last result is conserving energy and regulating fundamental bodily attributes such as digestion and urination. It is contrasted to the sympathetic nervous mechanism, which is explained as the “fight and flight” response that occurs in stressful situations and has largely opposite features.

You are watching: The route of major parasympathetic outflow from the head is via the

This write-up will comment on the anatomy and features of the parasympathetic nervous device.

Key facts around the parasympathetic nervous system
Cranial outflowOculomotor nerve (CN III) – iris, ciliary musclesFacial nerve (CN VII) – lacrimal, nasal, palatine, pharyngeal, sublingual, submandibular glandsGlossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX) – parotid gland
Vagus outflowVagus nerve (CN X) – heart, larynx, trachea, bronchi, lungs, liver, gallbladder, stomach, pancreas, kidney, small intestine, proximal huge intestine
Sacral outflowPelvic splanchnic nerves – descending colon, sigmoid colon, rectum, bladder, penis or clitoris

Structure Functions
+ Sjust how all


The parasympathetic nervous device is composed of many kind of pathmethods that attach its craniosacral components with the peripheral tproblems. Each parasympathetic pathmethod is composed of 2 neurons, the presynaptic (preganglionic) and also postsynaptic (postganglionic) neurons, which are associated by the axons of the presynaptic neurons.

The presynaptic neurons of the parasympathetic device are located within the medulla oblongata and sacral spinal cord. They offer off lengthy axons (presynaptic fibers) that leave the CNS and also take a trip in the direction of the postsynaptic neurons. Once they reach them, the presynaptic fibers synapse via the bodies of the postsynaptic neurons. This synapse offers the acetylcholine as a neurotransmitter, which is why the parasympathetic pathways are described as the cholinergic pathways. The presynaptic neurons of the parasympathetic pathmethods are located within the two significant parts of the main nervous system:

The postsynaptic neurons are uncovered within the parasympathetic ganglia, which typically lie near or within the tarobtain organs. After receiving the impulse from the presynaptic neuron, the postsynaptic neuron conveys the neural impulse additionally dvery own its axon (postsynaptic fiber). The postsynaptic fibers are significantly shorter than the presynaptic ones, offered that the postsynaptic neuronal bodies lie in the close proximity of their tarobtain organs.

Struggling through the nervous device anatomy? Check out just how to improve your expertise via our nervous mechanism quizzes, diagrams and also more!

Cranial part

The cranial percentage of the parasympathetic nervous device stems from the nuclei of the cranial nerves III, VII, IX and X. The presynaptic fibers of these neurons sign up with these cranial nerves in order to reach the parasympathetic ganglia of the head. 

The cranial nerves that carry the cranial parasympathetic outcirculation are the following:


Facial nerve (CN VII): carries presynaptic parasympathetic fibers from the premium salivatory nucleus and also synapses through the postsynaptic neurons uncovered in the pterygopalatine and submandibular ganglia. These ganglia then task postsynaptic fibers by means of 2 nerves;

Vagus nerve


The vagus nerve (CN X) is functionally not contained in the cranial parasympathetic outflow because it offers no parasympathetic innervation for the head. Instead, it gives the parasympathetic innervation to the thoracic and also abdominal viscera. 

The presynaptic parasympathetic fibers of the vagus nerve originate from the dorsal nucleus of vagus nerve and also the nucleus ambiguus in the brainstem. The presynaptic fibers travel within the vagus nerve to reach plenty of parasympathetic ganglia approximately and also within the organs of the thorax and also abdomen. Upon synapsing, the ganglia job brief postsynaptic fibers, which then innervate the target organs. 

The fibers stemming from the dorsal nucleus of the vagus nerve mostly innervate the frameworks of the lungs and gastrointestinal tract as much as the splenic flexure of the big intestine, while the fibers from the nucleus ambiguus supply the smooth musculature of the heart, pharynx, larynx and also soft palate. 

Branches of the vagus nerve that convey parasympathetic supply
Thorax Pharyngeal, premium laryngeal, recurrent laryngeal, premium and inferior cardiac, anterior and posterior bronchial and also esophageal branches
Abdoguys Gastric, celiac and also hepatic branches

Learn even more about the vagus nerve with our short articles, videos, quizzes and also labelled diagrams.

Vagus nerve Explore study unit

Sacral part

The presynaptic parasympathetic neurons of the sacral part of the PSNS lie within the gray matter of the S2-S4 segments of the spinal cord. These fibers leave the spinal cord through the anterior roots of the sacral spinal nerves S2-S4 and the pelvic splanchnic nerves that arise from their anterior branches.

These fibers synapse via the parasympathetic ganglia approximately the descfinishing and sigmoid parts of the colon, the rectum, and also the viscera of the pelvic cavity. These ganglia then project the postsynaptic fibers which innervate the discussed organs.



The autonomic nervous mechanism (ANS) controls and also regulates the functions of the visceral organs, smooth and also cardiac muscles and also glands without any type of conscious effort of an individual, and also is for this reason referred to as involuntary. The ANS plays an essential duty in the maintenance of homeostasis with the complementary functions of its 2 anatomically and also functionally distinctive divisions; the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Both units provide some level of nervous input to a given tconcern at all times. Each of them either boosts or decreases the task of the innervated framework, complementing each other’s features.

Looking for methods on exactly how to learn and understand also the parasympathetic device anatomy faster? Try out our 8 actions to create your own anatomy flashcards!

Parasympathetic fibers are sent to miscellaneous viscera to ensure various involuntary functions. In basic, it is obvious that the cranial outflow provides parasympathetic innervation to the head, and the sacral outflow provides the parasympathetic innervations of the pelvic viscera. However, an approximated 75% of all parasympathetic outcirculation in the whole body comes from the vagus nerve, that gives the thoracic and also abdominal viscera.

Eyes (pupil)

The parasympathetic innervation lugged through the oculomotor nerve outcomes in two events in the eye:

The contraction of the sphincter pupillae muscle, which leads to the constriction of the pupil (myosis). 

In addition, the parasympathetic stimulation of the pterygopalatine ganglion through the facial nerve causes increased secretion of the lacrimal gland also, resulting in raised tear production.

Gastrointestinal tract

The parasympathetic innervation brought via the facial and glossopharyngeal nerves stimulates the secretion of the submandibular, sublingual and also parotid glands. The last outcome is enhanced salivation, which promotes digestion.


The parasympathetic outflow with the vagus nerve has an extra direct impact on digestion, boosting the release of digestive juices and also enzymes from the stomach, pancreas and gallbladder and also enhancing the peristalsis of the gastrointestinal tract. The PNS additionally causes contractivity of the rectum and relaxation of the interior anal sphincter to permit defecation.

The vagus nerve innervates the abdominal viscera by creating the two plexsupplies along the whole length of the intestine;

Submucosal nervous plexus (of Meissner) found in the submucosa of the digestive tube and also includes only parasympathetic input from the vagus nerve (CN X).

Cardiorespiratory system


The parasympathetic outflow via the vagus nerve plays an important function in heart rate. The vagus nerve acts on atrioventricular (AV) node, slowing its conduction and also therefore slowing the heart price. 

Parasympathetic stimulation also relaxes the smooth musculature of the peripheral blood vessels, which results in the vasodilation of peripheral vasculature. In contrast to this, acting on the smooth muscles of the coronary vessels, the parasympathetic nerves cause their vasoconstriction in response to reduced demand for oxygen. Acting on the lungs, the PSNS contracts the smooth muscles of the tracheobronchial tree, leading to bronchoconstriction and proactivity of mucus secretion in the bronchi.

Genitourinary system

The sacral parasympathetic outcirculation acts on the pelvic viscera. It causes the relaxation of the internal sphincter of urinary bladder and also simultaneous contractivity of the detrusor muscle of the urinary bladder wall. This increases the intraluminal press within the bladder, thereby promoting urination. In enhancement, the PNS reasons stimulation of erectile tworries of the external genitalia, enabling an erection of the penis/clitoris to take place. 

Clinical correlation

Diabetic cardiac autonomic neuropathy is a significant and also widespread complication of diabetes mellitus that is frequently under-diagnosed yet have the right to result in major morbidity and mortality, because of the connected cardiovascular burden. In the early on durations of this condition, tright here is degeneration of the sympathetic manage of the heart, which is adhered to in later stages by the degeneration of the parasympathetic stimulation of the heart. Also, its effects on the parasympathetic nervous device cause numerous cardiovascular disturbances, including resting tachycardia, exercise intolerance and postural hypoanxiety.

Parasympathetic nervous system: want to learn even more around it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth write-ups and also HD atlas are right here to get you top results much faster.

See more: Remedios Caseros Para Matar Chinches, Cómo Encontrar Las Chinches

What carry out you choose to learn with?


“I would honestly say that reduced my study time in fifty percent.”–Read more.

Kim Bengochea, Regis College, Denver

Show references


Augustine, G. J., Fitzpatrick, D. (2004). Neuroscientific research (3rd ed.). Sunderland also, MA, USA: Sinauer Associates.Blumenfeld, H. (2018). Neuroanatomy through clinical instances (2nd ed.). Sunderland, MA: Sinauer.Haines, D. E., Mihailoff, G. A. (2018). Fundamental neuroscience for fundamental and clinical applications. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.Haines, D.E. (2014). Neuroanatomy in clinical context: An atlas of structures, sections, devices and also syndromes (ninth ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.Mancontact, E. L., Brock, D. G., & Gray, H. (2011). Gray’s clinical neuroanatomy: the anatomic basis for clinical neuroscience. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.Moore, K. L., Dalley, A. F., & Agur, A. M. R. (2014). Clinically Oriented Anatomy (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.Netter, F. (2019). Atlas of Person Anatomy (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders.Patestas, M. A., Gartner, L. P., & Patestas, M. A. (2009). A Textbook of Neuroanatomy. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.Snell, Rictough S. (2018) Clinical neuroanatomy (8th ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & WilkinsStandring, S. (2016). Gray"s Anatomy (41tst ed.). Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone


Register nowand grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!