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Somatic Nervous System vs. Autonomic Nervous System — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Published on December 9, 2023
Somatic Nervous System controls voluntary muscle movements; Autonomic Nervous System regulates involuntary bodily functions like heartbeat.
Somatic Nervous System vs. Autonomic Nervous System — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Somatic Nervous System and Autonomic Nervous System

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Key Differences

The Somatic Nervous System and the Autonomic Nervous System are both critical components of the peripheral nervous system. Each plays a distinct role in how our bodies function and respond to external and internal stimuli.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023
The Somatic Nervous System is directly responsible for voluntary muscle actions. When you decide to move your arm or walk, the Somatic Nervous System is at work. Conversely, the Autonomic Nervous System operates without conscious control, managing vital functions like breathing, digestion, and heart rate.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023
An essential difference between the Somatic Nervous System and the Autonomic Nervous System lies in their motor pathways. The former usually involves one motor neuron, while the latter involves a sequence of two motor neurons.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023
The Somatic Nervous System communicates largely with skeletal muscles, facilitating conscious movement. In contrast, the Autonomic Nervous System interacts with internal organs and glands, ensuring the body's internal environment remains stable and balanced.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023
While both the Somatic Nervous System and the Autonomic Nervous System are integral for human survival, they serve distinct functions. The Somatic facilitates intentional interactions with the environment, whereas the Autonomic maintains the body's internal status quo.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Control Type

Voluntary
Involuntary
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Major Functions

Muscle movement
Regulation of internal organs and glands
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Motor Pathway

Typically involves one motor neuron
Involves a sequence of two motor neurons
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Dec 09, 2023

Interacts With

Skeletal muscles
Internal organs and glands
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Dec 09, 2023

Subdivisions

N/A
Sympathetic and Parasympathetic systems
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Dec 09, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Somatic Nervous System

Facilitates conscious interactions with the environment.
Catching a ball is a conscious action managed by the Somatic Nervous System.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 18, 2023

Autonomic Nervous System

Functions without conscious thought.
Sweating in a hot environment is automatically controlled by the Autonomic Nervous System.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 18, 2023

Somatic Nervous System

Interacts primarily with skeletal muscles.
When lifting weights, the Somatic Nervous System engages specific muscles.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 18, 2023

Autonomic Nervous System

Interacts with internal organs and glands.
The secretion of saliva is managed by the Autonomic Nervous System.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 18, 2023

Somatic Nervous System

Uses sensory receptors for touch, pain, and temperature.
Feeling the warmth of a cup is detected by the Somatic Nervous System.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 18, 2023

Autonomic Nervous System

Regulates involuntary body functions.
Your heart rate increases during a fright due to the Autonomic Nervous System.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 18, 2023

Somatic Nervous System

Oversees voluntary muscle actions.
Moving your fingers to type involves the Somatic Nervous System.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 18, 2023

Autonomic Nervous System

Divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
The Autonomic Nervous System controls pupil dilation through its subdivisions.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 18, 2023

Somatic Nervous System

Relies on one motor neuron pathway.
Jumping in the air is a direct response executed by the Somatic Nervous System.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 18, 2023

Autonomic Nervous System

Ensures internal homeostasis.
Adjusting digestive processes is a task for the Autonomic Nervous System.
Fiza Rafique
Oct 18, 2023

Common Curiosities

Does the Somatic Nervous System function automatically?

No, the Somatic Nervous System oversees voluntary actions.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Are there subdivisions within the Autonomic Nervous System?

Yes, the Autonomic Nervous System has two subdivisions: the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

How does the motor pathway of the Somatic Nervous System differ from the Autonomic Nervous System?

The Somatic Nervous System typically involves one motor neuron, while the Autonomic Nervous System uses a sequence of two motor neurons.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Which system interacts primarily with skeletal muscles?

The Somatic Nervous System interacts primarily with skeletal muscles.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Which system has sensory receptors for touch and temperature?

The Somatic Nervous System has sensory receptors for touch, pain, and temperature.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Which system is responsible for involuntary actions like heart rate and digestion?

The Autonomic Nervous System regulates involuntary actions like heart rate and digestion.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Which system controls voluntary muscle movements, the Somatic Nervous System or the Autonomic Nervous System?

The Somatic Nervous System controls voluntary muscle movements.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Which system ensures the body's internal environment remains stable?

The Autonomic Nervous System ensures internal homeostasis.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Which nervous system is responsible for the relaxation response after a stressor?

The parasympathetic division of the Autonomic Nervous System is responsible for the relaxation response.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

How do the two systems work together in daily life?

While the Somatic Nervous System controls conscious actions, the Autonomic Nervous System maintains internal balance, allowing coordinated responses to environmental changes.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

What are the main functions of the Autonomic Nervous System?

The Autonomic Nervous System regulates involuntary body functions like heartbeat, digestion, and breathing.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Can we consciously control the Autonomic Nervous System?

Generally, no. The Autonomic Nervous System functions without conscious control, though certain practices like meditation can influence it.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Are the Somatic Nervous System and Autonomic Nervous System parts of the central nervous system?

No, both are components of the peripheral nervous system.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Is the Somatic Nervous System involved in the fight-or-flight response?

No, the fight-or-flight response is managed by the sympathetic division of the Autonomic Nervous System.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

Do both systems play a role in overall human survival?

Yes, both the Somatic Nervous System and the Autonomic Nervous System are integral for human survival.
Fiza Rafique
Dec 09, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at AskDifference.com, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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