Modulation of Autonomic Function by the Cerebral Cortex
This chapter examines the role of the cerebral cortex in the control of autonomic function. Prefrontal and insular cortical regions are key components of the cortical pathways that are recruited during stress as well as influencing blood pressure, sympathetic vasomotor drive, cardiovascular reflex function, vasopressin secretion, gastrointestinal motor function, and micturition. A description of the neuroanatomical connections of the cortex with other central autonomic circuits underpins the discussion of the role of the cerebral cortex in central autonomic control mechanisms. In addition, the sources of afferent input to cortical regions known to influence autonomic function are described. In man, early clues pointing to a role for the cortex in autonomic function came from patients affected by cerebral trauma or seizures. Today, the role(s) of the prefrontal cortex and insular cortex in human autonomic function is emerging from functional magnetic resonance imaging studies.
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