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Nerves of the heart: want to learn more about it?

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Nerves of the heart

Learning objectives 

This study unit will help you to: 

  1. Learn about the nervous supply of the heart muscle.
  2. Distinguish between the sympathetic and parasympathetic supply to the heart.
  3. Understand the components and function of the conduction system of the heart. 

Watch video

The heart has two systems. The internal stimulating and conducting system initiates and controls the contractions of the heart. The contractions are regulated by an external regulatory system. This system consists of the autonomic nerve fibers that originate from the network of nerves also known as the cardiac plexus.

The cardiac plexus is formed of both sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve fibers as well as visceral afferent fibers conveying reflexive and nociceptive fibers from the heart. It is located on the anterior surface of the trachea and along the posterior surface of the ascending aorta and pulmonary trunk. The sympathetic innervation to the heart comes from the sympathetic trunk, while the parasympathetic innervation originates from the vagus nerve (CN X). The cardiac plexus is responsible for influencing heart rate, cardiac output, and contraction force of the heart.

This video tutorial will provide you with an overview of the innervation of the heart muscle.

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched the video about heart innervation, test your knowledge by taking the quiz below.

Do you need a more focused quiz that can be tailored just for you? Try our custom quiz about the heart and choose your own topics.

Browse atlas

Take a closer look at the innervation of the heart in the gallery below.

Now you can study each structure of the conduction system of the heart in more detail with our second image gallery: 


Key points about the nerves of the heart
Parasympathetic efferent fibers Cervical and thoracic cardiac branches of vagus nerves
: Reduce heart rate, reduce force of contraction of myocardium, vasoconstriction of coronary arteries
Sympathetic efferent fibers Cardiac nerves from superior, middle and inferiorcervical and upper thoracic ganglia
: Increase heart rate, increasing force of contraction of myocardium, increasing blood flow in coronary vessels
Afferent parasympathetic Cervical and thoracic cardiac branches of vagus nerves
: Feedback on blood pressure
Afferent sympathetic fibers Afferents to middle and inferior cervical and upper thoracic ganglia
: Feedback on blood pressure, pain sensation
Conduction system of the heart Sinuatrial (SA) node
Atrioventricular (AV) node
AV bundle
Right and left branches of the bundle of His
Subendocardial Purkinje fibers

Well done!

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Continue your learning

Now that you're familiar with the general organization and function of the nerves of the heart, continue your learning by reading about its vascular supply and lymphatic drainage.

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