Cardiac vagal ganglia

Publication Name

Primer on the Autonomic Nervous System, Fourth Edition


Neural control of the heart is under the influence of the two major divisions of the autonomic system, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. Sympathetic and parasympathetic fibers projecting to ganglia in the heart form the intrinsic cardiac nervous system that functions as a major integration center and whose function can differ under normal and pathological conditions. The incoming vagal parasympathetic fibers form synaptic connections onto neurons that are clustered in ganglia on the atrial surface of the heart. As part of the intracardiac nervous system, these neuron clusters are termed intracardiac ganglia, but they are also frequently termed ganglionated plexi or “little brains.” The intrinsic cardiac neurons form functional afferent, efferent, and local circuits within the intracardiac nerve plexus which modulate central nervous system control of the heart and are capable of independently monitoring and influencing cardiac function.

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