Basics of the Autonomic Nervous System

Regulation and function: the autonomic nervous system regulates all vital functions as a superordinate control centre.

Vegetative nervous system (VNS): It regulates all vital functions such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, energy supply, digestion and metabolism. The VNS consists of the sympathetic nerve (tension nerve) and the parasympathetic nerve, also called the vagus (relaxation nerve). These two main nerves work antagonistically, i.e. in opposite directions. Example: If a person is confronted with a dangerous situation and the instinct to flee is activated, the sympathetic (tension) nerve is clearly more active than the parasympathetic (relaxation) nerve.


The following body reactions can then be measured:

  • Pumping capacity of the heart is increased
  • Increased oxygen supply through dilatation of the alveoli
  • Increased attention and concentration
  • Body and mind are put on alert
  • Pupils dilate
  • Blood pressure rises
  • Breathing rate increases
  • Stress hormones such as adrenaline are released more frequently

Under such conditions, the body can perform at its best!