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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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