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Term: parasympathetic

Literally meaning: beside sympathetic”

Origin: Anc Greek
παρά-/para-(=pefix denoting  intentification, “beside”, “near”, “contrary of” “side by side” “past by”, “beyond”)
+συμπάθεια/sympathia(=>συν/syn(=together, with) +πάθος / pathos (=passion, sorrow, strong emotion)
The notion that sympathetic nervous system coordinates body  functions originated by Greek physician Galen who taught that nerves were hollow tubes distributing “animal spitrits” in the body , thereby fostering concerred action, or “syphathy” of the organs. In 1732 Danish anatomist Jacques-Benigne Winslow (1669-1760)  coined the term sympathetic nervous system to describe the hains of ganglia and nerves connented to the thoracic and lumbar spinal cord. Bichat (1771-1802) divided life into two distinct forms, one governed by the brain, and the other (organic, vegetative, life) by the abdominal ganglia. Vegetative life was seen as connected with the passions and independent of education, governed by independently functioning abdominal ganglia, a chain of “little brains”. English physiologist  John Langley (1852-1925) introduced the term autonomous nervous system  and parasympathetic nervous system to denote the cranial and sacral portions of the nervous system, in contrast with the sympathetic nervous system, which originates from thoracolumbar ganglia.  Langley’s coinage was based on the obsarvation that parasympathetic nerves emerge from the brain and the sacral segments of the spinal cord and thus to either side of the regions of the cord from wich sympathetic fibers arise. As Langley quoted “the autonomic nervous sytem means the nervous system of the glands and of the involuntary muscle; it governs the “organic” functions of the body.  (J of Physiology, 1898-1899).
Parasympatetic” is relating to  the parasympathetic autonomous nervous system which slowing blood pressure, enhancing intestinal and gland activity, dilating the pupils of the eyes and constricts blood vessels (rest-and-digest" activities).


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  2. I learned a very useful trick: if you don’t understand a word and you even look up the definition and still cannot understand it, look up the origin of the word. You can understand where it came from and what the roots are. It helps because you can use the definition of the root as a vague definition of the word, so that later when you look at a dictionary definition you can see how the definition is related to the root and you can understand the word much better. This works for me. You should try it too!