Certain organs, like the heart and the digestive system, are influenced by these two systems. Thus, the sympathetic system accelerates the cardiac rhythm and slows down the peristaltic activity of the digestive tract, while the parasympathetic system slows down the heart and accelerates the peristaltic activity. The more active the body, the greater the mobilization of the sympathetic system, which can be qualified as the vegetative support system of the action. The less active the body, the greater the mobilization of the parasympathetic system, which actively contributes to the state of relaxation and sleep.
In certain cases, the nerve and hormone pathways have the same effect on an organ.45 The vegetative regulations coordinate the moods and the overall condition of the organism. The vegetative coordination is mostly nonconscious but sensitive to the impact of the central nervous system (especially on the striated muscles). This explains why individuals can influence these systems by indirect modalities (breathing exercises, relaxation, yoga exercises, etc.). The vegetative system is part of the mechanisms of organismic regulation. It is consequently used in most of the interactions between the dimensions of the psyche and the body.
Recent research shows that vegetative dynamics are more complex than what Cannon’s generation of physiologists thought. For example, there is more chemical vegetative activity than what was previously assumed by Cannon and Reich.46
In the subsequent sections, I illustrate Cannon’s general understanding by quoting more recent works. They show how the affective and vegetative systems insert themselves into both the fundamental physiological functioning, like the peristaltic activity, and the activity of the central
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