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Parasympathetic Nervous System

The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is part of the autonomic nervous system together with the sympathetic and enteric nervous systems. The PNS controls the activity of cardiac and smooth muscle cells and exocrine and endocrine gland cells. The PNS may also be involved in immune modulation, which is an area of active research. This entry summarizes the anatomy and physiology of the PNS with a focus on neural circuits, effector organs, and regulatory functions.

Structural Bases of PNS Physiology

The PNS consists of preganglionic (P1N) and postganglionic (P2N) neurons. Some P1N bodies are located within the Edinger-Westphal nucleus in the midbrain, which is the region of the brainstem near the center of the brain. Other P1N bodies are located within the superior and inferior salivatory nuclei, ...

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