PerspectiveNeuroscience

Neural circuitry gets rewired

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Science  18 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6314, pp. 833-834
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal2810

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Summary

Our body organs are well integrated into a control framework that is represented by coordinated neural and hormonal signals. The key component of this system is the circuitry of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates bodily functions that are not consciously directed. Historically, this system is divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic subdivisions—a yin and yang control mechanism for stress responses (fight or flight) and homeostasis (rest and digest), respectively. On page 893 of this issue, Espinosa-Medina et al. (1) clearly demonstrate that, contrary to current dogma, certain autonomic neural circuitry does not belong in the parasympathetic subdivision. This finding provokes a serious shift in textbook knowledge, and, as with any fundamental discovery, it brings important practical implications for neuroanatomists, evolutionary-developmental specialists, and possibly a new era of health care based on “electroceuticals.”