Somatic motor activity is always voluntary, while ANS motor activity is usually involuntary. pgno:762

This indicates the possibility of voluntary activity by ANS. So, what are the voluntary actions by ANS?

My Attempt:

Wikipidea says:

Most autonomous functions are involuntary but they can often work in conjunction with the somatic nervous system which provides voluntary control.

So, is right to say that Flight or Fight response is the voluntary activity of ANS?


1 Answer 1


I have no idea what the author has in mind, but their statement is wrong from the beginning: somatic motor activity is not always voluntary. Reflexes are a good and obvious example.

"Fight or flight" response is basically half of the entire ANS (the sympathetic part), so that's incredibly broad. Parts of that response are definitely involuntary.

I think it's more likely that Wikipedia is thinking of things like breathing, which is normally under ANS but you can also manually control your breathing. They may also be thinking of things you can do to directly influence your autonomic responses, for example, if you start running, you are voluntarily moving your muscles, but the autonomic nervous system will also participate (for example, by increasing your heart and breathing rates).

  • $\begingroup$ So is it still correct to say ANS is not always involuntary? $\endgroup$
    – JM97
    Jul 24, 2017 at 6:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JM97 I think it makes most sense to just think of the ANS as involuntary, because that's really the whole point of differentiating the ANS from the somatic nervous system, while remembering two things: 1) The ANS does not exist in a vacuum, it shares a body with the rest of the nervous system, and as such is not immune to influence, and 2) Absolutes are always risky in biology - someone will come around with a particularly clever example or a way of narrowing a definition to disprove an absolute statement. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 24, 2017 at 14:35

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