Cardiac Reflexes

Just distal to the origin of the internal carotid artery from the common carotid, there is a dilatation of the wall of the internal carotid artery, which contains the carotid sinus.

In the carotid sinus are baroreceptors for monitoring blood pressure. These receptors are innervated by visceral sensory branches of the glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves. Stimulation of these nerves causes a reflex firing of the parasympathetic fibers in the vagus nerve, resulting in a decrease in the rate and force of cardiac contraction as well as peripheral vasodilation and a decline in blood pressure. In some individuals, light pressure over the carotid sinus can cause fainting.

At the origin of the external and internal carotid arteries is the carotid body, which is a chemoreceptor for oxygen and carbon dioxide. It is also innervated by sensory branches from the glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves. In the carotid body reflex, changes are detected by chemoreceptors in the carotid body and cause alterations in respiratory rate.

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