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What are the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems?

Madeleine M. Castellanos, MD
Psychiatry
The sympathetic nervous system controls the body's stress-related functions like the "fight or flight" response, which allowed our caveman ancestors to battle or escape dangerous predators. (These days, we're more likely to rely on our fight-or-flight response before a big meeting with the boss.) The parasympathetic nervous system controls the "rest and digest" response -- lower blood pressure, a slower heartbeat, and other functions related to relaxation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.