parasympathetic nervous system


Summary: The craniosacral division of the autonomic nervous system. The cell bodies of the parasympathetic preganglionic fibers are in brain stem nuclei and in the sacral spinal cord. They synapse in cranial autonomic ganglia or in terminal ganglia near target organs. The parasympathetic nervous system generally acts to conserve resources and restore homeostasis, often with effects reciprocal to the sympathetic nervous system.

Top Publications

  1. Stanley J, Buchheit M, Peake J. The effect of post-exercise hydrotherapy on subsequent exercise performance and heart rate variability. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012;112:951-61 pubmed publisher
    ..50 (-0.66; -0.29)]. Although the effects of CWI and CWT on performance were trivial, the beneficial effects on perceptions of recovery support the use of these recovery strategies. ..
  2. Cheyuo C, Jacob A, Wu R, Zhou M, Coppa G, Wang P. The parasympathetic nervous system in the quest for stroke therapeutics. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2011;31:1187-95 pubmed publisher
    ..Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) has been shown to antagonize a multiplicity of pathologic mechanisms...
  3. Al Haddad H, Laursen P, Ahmaidi S, Buchheit M. Influence of cold water face immersion on post-exercise parasympathetic reactivation. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010;108:599-606 pubmed publisher
    ..026) and HRR (P = 0.002) values for the CWFI compared with the CON condition. Cold water face immersion appears to be a simple and efficient means of immediately accelerating post-exercise parasympathetic reactivation. ..
  4. Momiyama T, Zaborszky L. Somatostatin presynaptically inhibits both GABA and glutamate release onto rat basal forebrain cholinergic neurons. J Neurophysiol. 2006;96:686-94 pubmed
    ..These findings suggest that SS presynaptically inhibits both GABA and glutamate release onto BF cholinergic neurons in a Ca(2+)-dependent way, and that SS-induced effect on IPSCs and EPSCs are mediated by different sst subtypes. ..
  5. Fryer A, Stein L, Nie Z, Curtis D, Evans C, Hodgson S, et al. Neuronal eotaxin and the effects of CCR3 antagonist on airway hyperreactivity and M2 receptor dysfunction. J Clin Invest. 2006;116:228-36 pubmed
    ..Thus, signaling via CCR3 mediates eosinophil recruitment to airway nerves and may be a prerequisite to blockade of inhibitory M2Rs by eosinophil major basic protein. ..
  6. Park H, Zhang Y, DU C, Welzig C, Madias C, Aronovitz M, et al. Role of SREBP-1 in the development of parasympathetic dysfunction in the hearts of type 1 diabetic Akita mice. Circ Res. 2009;105:287-94 pubmed publisher
  7. Proctor G. Muscarinic receptors and salivary secretion. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2006;100:1103-4 pubmed
  8. Buchheit M, Peiffer J, Abbiss C, Laursen P. Effect of cold water immersion on postexercise parasympathetic reactivation. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2009;296:H421-7 pubmed publisher
    ..CWI may serve as a simple and effective means to accelerate parasympathetic reactivation during the immediate period following supramaximal exercise. ..
  9. Buchheit M, Papelier Y, Laursen P, Ahmaidi S. Noninvasive assessment of cardiac parasympathetic function: postexercise heart rate recovery or heart rate variability?. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2007;293:H8-10 pubmed

More Information


  1. Porges S. The polyvagal perspective. Biol Psychol. 2007;74:116-43 pubmed
  2. Gruber J, Dutra S, Eidelman P, Johnson S, Harvey A. Emotional and physiological responses to normative and idiographic positive stimuli in bipolar disorder. J Affect Disord. 2011;133:437-42 pubmed publisher
    ..Normative stimuli were more potent elicitors of positive emotion compared to idiographic stimuli. The study provided further evidence for cardiac vagal tone as a potential biomarker of extreme positive emotion in BD. ..
  3. Bisulli F, Vignatelli L, Naldi I, Licchetta L, Provini F, Plazzi G, et al. Increased frequency of arousal parasomnias in families with nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy: a common mechanism?. Epilepsia. 2010;51:1852-60 pubmed publisher
    ..This study aimed to verify whether relatives of patients with NFLE have a higher frequency of parasomnias, namely arousal disorders, and thereby shed light on the still unknown pathophysiologic mechanisms underlying NFLE...
  4. Giles P, Hensel K, Pacchia C, Smith M. Suboccipital decompression enhances heart rate variability indices of cardiac control in healthy subjects. J Altern Complement Med. 2013;19:92-6 pubmed publisher
    ..11 for all variables). These data support the hypothesis that upper cervical spine manipulation can acutely affect measures of heart rate variability in healthy individuals. ..
  5. Zuzewicz K, Saulewicz A, Konarska M, Kaczorowski Z. Heart rate variability and motion sickness during forklift simulator driving. Int J Occup Saf Ergon. 2011;17:403-10 pubmed
    ..In subjects with a definite inclination to motion sickness after ~30 min of the driving, changes in parameter values were found indicating an increase in sympathetic and parasympathetic activity with parasympathetic dominance. ..
  6. Schalow G. The classification and identification of human somatic and parasympathetic nerve fibres including urinary bladder afferents and efferents is preserved following spinal cord injury. Electromyogr Clin Neurophysiol. 2009;49:263-86 pubmed
    ..7. With the newly developed 'coordination dynamics therapy', applied early after spinal cord injury, such complications of bladder functioning can be avoided; the bladder can causally be cured in severe spinal cord injury. ..
  7. Lautt W, Schafer J, Macedo M, Legare D. Bethanechol and N-acetylcysteine mimic feeding signals and reverse insulin resistance in fasted and sucrose-induced diabetic rats. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011;89:135-42 pubmed publisher
    ..Neither was effective alone. Both "feeding signals" are necessary and sufficient for insulin to stimulate HISS release. ..
  8. Croizier S, Prevot V, Bouret S. Leptin Controls Parasympathetic Wiring of the Pancreas during Embryonic Life. Cell Rep. 2016;15:36-44 pubmed publisher
    ..These studies reveal an unanticipated regulatory role of leptin on the parasympathetic nervous system during embryonic development and may have important implications for our understanding of the early ..
  9. Sepulveda Cano L, Alvarez Meza A, Castellanos Dominguez G. Training using short-time features for OSA discrimination. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2012;2012:9-12 pubmed publisher
    ..Attained results show that using continuous wavelet transform with short-time features and multivariate projection, followed by a SVM classifier, allow to obtain a suitable OSA detection. ..
  10. Nasimi A, Kafami M. Vasopressin and sympathetic system mediate the cardiovascular effects of the angiotensin II in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in rat. Neurosci Res. 2016;108:34-9 pubmed publisher
    ..This is an interesting new finding that not only circulating Ang II but also brain Ang II makes vasopressin release. ..
  11. Ondicova K, Mravec B. Multilevel interactions between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems: a minireview. Endocr Regul. 2010;44:69-75 pubmed
    ..clinical studies have demonstrated the presence of multiple interactions between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system that are mediated through several pathways and mechanisms at both central and peripheral levels of the ..
  12. Healy J, Nilsson K, Hohmeier H, Berglund J, Davis J, Hoffman J, et al. Cholinergic augmentation of insulin release requires ankyrin-B. Sci Signal. 2010;3:ra19 pubmed publisher
    ..Thus, defective glycemic regulation through loss of ankyrin-B-dependent stabilization of IP3R is a potential risk factor for type 2 diabetes. ..
  13. Bush N, Jones Mason K, Coccia M, Caron Z, Alkon A, Thomas M, et al. Effects of pre- and postnatal maternal stress on infant temperament and autonomic nervous system reactivity and regulation in a diverse, low-income population. Dev Psychopathol. 2017;29:1553-1571 pubmed publisher
    ..age was assessed via maternal report of temperament (negativity, surgency, and regulation) and infant parasympathetic nervous system physiology (respiratory sinus arrhythmia [RSA]) during the Still Face Paradigm...
  14. Schmidt A, Biau S, Möstl E, Becker Birck M, Morillon B, Aurich J, et al. Changes in cortisol release and heart rate variability in sport horses during long-distance road transport. Domest Anim Endocrinol. 2010;38:179-89 pubmed publisher
    ..The degree of these changes tended to be most pronounced on the first day of both outbound and return transport. ..
  15. Kjaer J, Jørgensen H. Heart rate variability in domestic chicken lines genetically selected on feather pecking behavior. Genes Brain Behav. 2011;10:747-55 pubmed publisher
  16. Zarzoso M, Such Miquel L, Parra G, Brines Ferrando L, Such L, Chorro F, et al. The training-induced changes on automatism, conduction and myocardial refractoriness are not mediated by parasympathetic postganglionic neurons activity. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012;112:2185-93 pubmed publisher
    ..These findings reveal that the myocardial electrophysiological modifications produced by physical training are not mediated by intrinsic cardiac parasympathetic activity. ..
  17. Takahashi T. Mechanism of acupuncture on neuromodulation in the gut--a review. Neuromodulation. 2011;14:8-12; discussion 12 pubmed publisher
    ..quot; Acupuncture may be effective in patients with functional GI disorders because of its effects on GI motility and visceral pain. ..
  18. Yan Y, Yang Y, You J, Yang G, Xu Y, Huang N, et al. Permethrin modulates cholinergic mini-synaptic currents by partially blocking the calcium channel. Toxicol Lett. 2011;201:258-63 pubmed publisher
    ..The results are consistent with the hypothesis that permethrin may modulate cholinergic mini-synaptic currents by partially blocking the calcium channel. ..
  19. Murdock K, Fagundes C. Attachment Orientations, Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia, and Stress Are Important for Understanding the Link Between Childhood Socioeconomic Status and Adult Self-Reported Health. Ann Behav Med. 2017;51:189-198 pubmed publisher
    ..Furthermore, we examined whether parasympathetic nervous system functioning was a moderator of associations between attachment orientations and self-reported stress...
  20. Korsakova N. [The type of age-related cataract as available marker of socially significant diseases of the organism]. Adv Gerontol. 2015;28:462-465 pubmed
    ..Moreover, patients with nuclear cataract had the domination of parasympathetic nervous system and another character of dystrophic changes...
  21. Dergacheva O, Boychuk C, Mendelowitz D. Developmental changes in GABAergic neurotransmission to presympathetic and cardiac parasympathetic neurons in the brainstem. J Neurophysiol. 2013;110:672-9 pubmed publisher
    ..In conclusion, there are critical development periods at which significant rearrangement occurs in the central regulation of cardiovascular function. ..
  22. Beardsley C, Å karabot J. Effects of self-myofascial release: A systematic review. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2015;19:747-58 pubmed publisher
    ..It may lead to improved arterial function, improved vascular endothelial function, and increased parasympathetic nervous system activity acutely, which could be useful in recovery...
  23. Lee H, Lo S, Chen B, Lin Y, Chu D, Cheng T, et al. Increased night duty loading of physicians caused elevated blood pressure and sympathetic tones in a dose-dependent manner. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2016;89:413-23 pubmed publisher
    ..This observational analysis suggests that the dose-dependent stress responses of the cardiovascular system in physicians were caused by the duty load. ..
  24. Jones S, Guthrie K, Reed S, Landis C, Sternfeld B, LaCroix A, et al. A yoga & exercise randomized controlled trial for vasomotor symptoms: Effects on heart rate variability. Complement Ther Med. 2016;26:66-71 pubmed publisher
    Heart rate variability (HRV) reflects the integration of the parasympathetic nervous system with the rest of the body. Studies on the effects of yoga and exercise on HRV have been mixed but suggest that exercise increases HRV...
  25. Afonso R, Fernandes A, Santos C, Ligeiro D, Ribeiro R, Lima I, et al. Postprandial insulin resistance in Zucker diabetic fatty rats is associated with parasympathetic-nitric oxide axis deficiencies. J Neuroendocrinol. 2012;24:1346-55 pubmed publisher
    ..We show that defective PSN-NO axis and GSH synthesis, together with an impaired direct action of insulin, appears to contribute to postprandial insulin resistance in this model. ..
  26. Drummond P. Effects of a facial nerve lesion on responses in forehead microvessels to conjunctival irritation and paced breathing. Auton Neurosci. 2012;169:139-41 pubmed publisher
    ..These findings indicate that parasympathetic activity in the facial nerve increases forehead blood flow during minor conjunctival irritation, but may interfere with the 0.15 Hz vascular wave. ..
  27. Lee S, Kim D. Effect of Color Light Stimulation Using LED on Sleep Induction Time. J Healthc Eng. 2017;2017:6030268 pubmed publisher
    ..Therefore, because the preferred color light stimulation activated the parasympathetic nervous system, sleep was induced quickly...
  28. Hamilton J, Alloy L. Physiological Markers of Interpersonal Stress Generation in Depression. Clin Psychol Sci. 2017;5:911-929 pubmed publisher
    Abnormalities in parasympathetic nervous system activity have been linked to depression, but less is known about processes underlying this relationship...
  29. De Marinis M, Colaizzo E, Petrelli R, Santilli V. Alterations in cardiovascular autonomic function tests in idiopathic hyperhidrosis. Auton Neurosci. 2012;167:34-8 pubmed publisher
    ..001) than in controls. Idiopathic hyperhidrosis seems to be a complex dysfunction that involves autonomic pathways other than those related to sweating. ..
  30. Łoniewska B, Kaczmarczyk M, Clark J, Kordek A, Ciechanowicz A. Polymorphism 1936A > G in the AKAP10 gene (encoding A-kinase-anchoring protein 10) is associated with higher cholesterol cord blood concentration in Polish full-term newsborns. J Perinat Med. 2013;41:205-10 pubmed
    ..Our results demonstrate a possible association between the 1936G AKAP10 variant and the total cholesterol level in the cord blood of the Polish newborn population. ..
  31. Gamer M, Buchel C. Oxytocin specifically enhances valence-dependent parasympathetic responses. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012;37:87-93 pubmed publisher
    ..Moreover, heart rate changes were recorded that are additionally mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system. Oxytocin enhanced differential heart rate responses to facial expressions as a function of the ..
  32. Nunes Freitas A, Ribeiro Carvalho A, Lima C, Dutra Tavares A, Manhães A, Lisboa P, et al. Nicotine exposure during the third trimester equivalent of human gestation: time course of effects on the central cholinergic system of rats. Toxicol Sci. 2011;123:144-54 pubmed publisher
    ..In addition, detrimental effects are observable even long after the exposure has been interrupted. ..
  33. Tracy L, Ioannou L, Baker K, Gibson S, Georgiou Karistianis N, Giummarra M. Meta-analytic evidence for decreased heart rate variability in chronic pain implicating parasympathetic nervous system dysregulation. Pain. 2016;157:7-29 pubmed publisher
  34. Yaroslavsky I, Rottenberg J, Bylsma L, Jennings J, George C, Baji I, et al. Parasympathetic nervous system activity predicts mood repair use and its effectiveness among adolescents with and without histories of major depression. J Abnorm Psychol. 2016;125:323-36 pubmed publisher
    ..Atypical RSA patterns also predicted reduced benefits from laboratory mood repair. ..
  35. Christou G, Kiortsis D. The effects of body weight status on orthostatic intolerance and predisposition to noncardiac syncope. Obes Rev. 2017;18:370-379 pubmed publisher, accompanied with both down-regulation of sympathetic nervous system activity and up-regulation of parasympathetic nervous system activity...
  36. Guo Z, Li M, Longhurst J. Nucleus ambiguus cholinergic neurons activated by acupuncture: relation to enkephalin. Brain Res. 2012;1442:25-35 pubmed publisher
    ..These results suggest that EA at the P5-P6 acupoints has the potential to influence parasympathetic outflow and cardiovascular function, likely through an enkephalinergic mechanism. ..
  37. Connes P, Coates T. Autonomic nervous system dysfunction: implication in sickle cell disease. C R Biol. 2013;336:142-7 pubmed publisher
    ..This review discusses the interaction of blood rheological factors and the role that autonomic nervous system (ANS) induced vasoconstriction may have in triggering crisis as well as the mechanism of ANS dysfunction in SCD. ..
  38. Gonzales K, Pare J, Wichmann T, Smith Y. GABAergic inputs from direct and indirect striatal projection neurons onto cholinergic interneurons in the primate putamen. J Comp Neurol. 2013;521:2502-22 pubmed publisher
    ..These findings show that ChIs receive prominent GABAergic inputs from multiple origins, including a significant contingent from axon collaterals of direct and indirect pathway projection neurons. ..
  39. Freeling J, Li Y. Age-related attenuation of parasympathetic control of the heart in mice. Int J Physiol Pathophysiol Pharmacol. 2015;7:126-35 pubmed
    ..nervous system maintains homeostasis through the balance of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS)...
  40. Macdowell K, Diaz Marsa M, Güemes I, Rodriguez A, Leza J, Carrasco J. Inflammatory activation and cholinergic anti-inflammatory system in eating disorders. Brain Behav Immun. 2013;32:33-9 pubmed publisher
    ..Further research on cellular inflammatory and anti-inflammatory pathways might be oriented to investigate differences between ED subtypes and to search for new potential targets for pharmacological treatment. ..
  41. Dergacheva O, Kamendi H, Wang X, Mendelowitz D. 5HT1A receptors inhibit glutamate inputs to cardiac vagal neurons post-hypoxia/hypercapnia. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2011;179:254-8 pubmed publisher
    ..This study indicates endogenous activation of serotonergic 5HT1A receptors diminishes glutamatergic neurotransmission to CVNs following H/H, likely via a presynaptic site of action. ..
  42. Connell A, Dawson G, Danzo S, McKillop H. The psychophysiology of parenting: Individual differences in autonomic reactivity to positive and negative mood inductions and observed parental affect during dyadic interactions with children. J Fam Psychol. 2017;31:30-40 pubmed publisher
    ..Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA) was measured as an index of parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activation while viewing film clips designed to induce neutral, sad, and amused mood states...
  43. Ueda H, Mitoh Y, Fujita M, Kobashi M, Yamashiro T, Sugimoto T, et al. Muscarinic receptor immunoreactivity in the superior salivatory nucleus neurons innervating the salivary glands of the rat. Neurosci Lett. 2011;499:42-6 pubmed publisher
    ..0%); therefore, it is probable that SSN neurons co-express M3R-ir with at least two of the other muscarinic receptor subtypes. This is the first report to show that SSN neurons contain muscarinic acetylcholine receptors. ..
  44. Elia J, Vetter V. Cardiovascular effects of medications for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: what is known and how should it influence prescribing in children?. Paediatr Drugs. 2010;12:165-75 pubmed publisher
  45. Tracy L, Koenig J, Georgiou Karistianis N, Gibson S, Giummarra M. Heart rate variability is associated with thermal heat pain threshold in males, but not females. Int J Psychophysiol. 2018;131:37-43 pubmed publisher
    ..suggest that higher pain threshold appears to be related to greater engagement of the inhibitory parasympathetic nervous system in men only, and that other biopsychosocial mechanisms may contribute to experimental pain experience ..
  46. Huang T, Hu J, Wang B, Nie Y, Geng J, Cheng L. Tlx3 controls cholinergic transmitter and Peptide phenotypes in a subset of prenatal sympathetic neurons. J Neurosci. 2013;33:10667-75 pubmed publisher
  47. Hirata A, Castro Alamancos M. Neocortex network activation and deactivation states controlled by the thalamus. J Neurophysiol. 2010;103:1147-57 pubmed publisher
  48. Hu X, Yuan M, Yin Y, Wang Y, Li Y, Zhang N, et al. Electroacupuncture at LI11 promotes jejunal motility via the parasympathetic pathway. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017;17:329 pubmed publisher
    ..Our results suggest that EA at LI11 promotes jejunal motility primarily by exciting the parasympathetic pathway, and that A?-fibres and C-fibres may play important roles in the process. ..
  49. Fagundes C, Murray D, Hwang B, Gouin J, Thayer J, Sollers J, et al. Sympathetic and parasympathetic activity in cancer-related fatigue: more evidence for a physiological substrate in cancer survivors. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011;36:1137-47 pubmed publisher
    ..This study evaluated relationships between fatigue and both sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity in breast cancer survivors...
  50. Patron E, Messerotti Benvenuti S, Favretto G, Valfrè C, Bonfà C, Gasparotto R, et al. Biofeedback assisted control of respiratory sinus arrhythmia as a biobehavioral intervention for depressive symptoms in patients after cardiac surgery: a preliminary study. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2013;38:1-9 pubmed publisher
    ..Overall, the current study also suggests that this biobehavioral intervention may add to the efficacy of postoperative risk reduction programs and rehabilitation protocols in cardiac surgery patients. ..
  51. Tian Y, He Z, Zhao J, Tao D, Xu K, Earnest C, et al. Heart rate variability threshold values for early-warning nonfunctional overreaching in elite female wrestlers. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27:1511-9 pubmed publisher
    ..Thus, severe perturbations both above and below normal responses lasting >2 weeks indicated an athlete's transition to NFOR and, hence, are useful for assessing possible overreaching/training. ..
  52. Mestanikova A, Ondrejka I, Mestanik M, Cesnekova D, Visnovcova Z, Bujnakova I, et al. Pupillary light reflex is altered in adolescent depression. Physiol Res. 2017;66:S277-S284 pubmed
    ..PLR), which could provide novel important information about dynamic balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system in adolescent patients suffering from major depression...
  53. Crestani C, Alves F, Busnardo C, Resstel L, Correa F. N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptors in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus modulate cardiac component of the baroreflex in unanesthetized rats. Neurosci Res. 2010;67:317-26 pubmed publisher
    ..Taken together, our results suggest a facilitatory influence of the PVN on the bradycardic response of the baroreflex through activation of local NMDA glutamate receptors and a modulation of the cardiac parasympathetic activity. ..