Author(s): Recordati G
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Abstract In light of the nonequilibrium thermodynamics by I. Prigogine, the autonomic nervous system as a whole may be viewed as a dissipative structure progressively assembled in the course of evolution, plastically and rhythmically interfaced between forebrain, internal and external environments, to regulate energy, matter and information exchanges. In the present paper, this hypothesis is further pursued to verify whether the two main divisions of the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, may support different types of exchange with the external environment. Previous data from hypothalamic stimulation experiments, studies of locus coeruleus function and available data on behavioral functional organization indicate that (1) tight engagement with the external environment, (2) high level of energy mobilization and utilization and (3) information mainly related to exteroceptive sensory stimulation characterize a behavioral prevalence of sympathoadrenal activation. On the other hand, (1) disengagement from the external environment, (2) low levels of internal energy and (3) dominance of proprioceptive information characterize a behavioral prevalence of vagal tone. Behavioral matter exchanges such as feeding, drinking, micturition and defecation are equally absent at the extreme of sympathoadrenal and vagally driven behaviors. The autonomic nervous system as a whole is genetically determined, but the sympathoadrenal system has been mainly designed to organize the visceral apparatus for an action to be performed by the biological system in the external environment and to deal with the novelty of task and of the environment, while the functional role of the parasympathetic is to prepare the visceral apparatus for an action to be performed by the biological system on itself, for recovery and self-protection (homeostasis), and is reinforced by repetition of phylo- and ontogenetically determined patterns. The available clinical data further support this interpretation indicating that an increased sympathetic and a decreased vagal tone may represent a consistent risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science B.V.
This article was published in Auton Neurosci
and referenced in Journal of Sports Medicine & Doping Studies