Autonomic Nervous System
National Cancer Institute
The autonomic nervous system is a visceral efferent system, which means it sends motor impulses to the visceral organs. It functions automatically and continuously, without conscious effort, to innervate smooth muscle, cardiac muscle, and glands. It is concerned with heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and other visceral activities that work together to maintain homeostasis.
The autonomic nervous system has two parts, the sympathetic division and the parasympathetic division. Many visceral organs are supplied with fibers from both divisions. In this case, one stimulates and the other inhibits. This antagonistic functional relationship serves as a balance to help maintain homeostasis.