I learned that the adrenal medulla releases epinephrine, which is a vasodilator of the vessels that lead to the skeletal muscle.

I also learned that somatic nervous system only uses Achetycholine as its hormone (not epinephrine).

I also learned that the somatic nervous system controls skeletal muscle.

So, why is epinephrine not considered a part of the somatic nervous system hormones, if it is controlling the skeletal muscle? What is wrong here?


1 Answer 1


You are confusing different functional systems. Epinephrine released by the adrenal medulla circulates in the blood and indeed dilates the blood vessels in skeletal muscle. This ensures that enough oxygen and nutrients are available for the muscles to perform in a fight/flight response.

The somatic nervous system utilises acetylcholine not as a hormone but as a neurotransmitter. It is not released into the blood but only into the tiny (about 10nm wide) gap (synapse) between the nerve cell's axon terminal and the next nerve cell or muscle cell respectively.

This release by the somatic nerve cells causes an electrical potential in the muscle which makes it contract.

In summary:

The somatic nervous system controls the muscles because it stimulates the contraction which makes e.g. your arm move. Epinephrine released into the blood by the adrenal medulla serves to ensure the muscles have the blood supply they need in a stress response (e.g. a dangerous situation).

Along with muscular blood vessel dilation, epinephrine in the blood for example also stimulates the heart to beat faster and stronger, and dampens down mechanisms involved in digestion - essentially it does everything necessary to allow a quick escape or a strong fight.

  • $\begingroup$ Ah, yes, thank you. Confusion between hormones and neurotransmitters. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – CodeGuy
    Jun 3, 2013 at 23:21

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