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Copyright © 2004, Elsevier Science (USA) All rights reserved.

The peripheral nervous system can be divided functionally and anatomically into two subsystems: the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The efferent motor neurons of the somatic system innervate the striated muscle fibers of skeletal muscles. Because the contractions of many of these muscles are consciously controlled, the system is often referred to as the voluntary nervous system. The ANS innervates organs and tissues, many of which are located within the viscera, that normally do not require control at the conscious level; thus, it often is referred to as the visceral or involuntary nervous system. The ANS, in turn, is composed of three major components: the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions (Fig. 1), and the enteric nervous system. Acting in an integrated manner, the ANS is one of the primary effectors of homeostasis, in part regulating the function of those organs involved in maintaining the constancy of the internal environment of the body.

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