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Parasympathetic Nervous System

  1. Karen S. Quigley1,2,3,4

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0638

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Quigley, K. S. 2010. Parasympathetic Nervous System. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Department of Veterans Affairs New Jersey Healthcare System, East Orange, NJ

  2. 2

    Department of New Jersey Medical School

  3. 3

    Department of University of Medicine

  4. 4

    Department of Dentistry of New Jersey

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is one of the divisions of the autonomic nervous system that controls the function of organs and glands in the body (the efferent portion), and the PNS senses changes in these visceral systems (the afferent portion); the other autonomic division is the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The neurons that comprise the efferent PNS (also called the craniosacral system) arise from either the cranial nerves, which exit from the brain stem and spinal cord, or from the sacral portion of the spinal cord. Cranial nerve parasympathetic fibers innervate the viscera of the head, neck, chest, and upper abdomen, including the upper portions of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Sacral parasympathetic fibers innervate the lower GI tract and other organs of the pelvis.