Modern medicine has generally viewed the concept of "psycho-somatic" disease with suspicion. This is partly because no neural networks were known for the "mind," conceptually associated with the cerebral cortex, to influence autonomic and endocrine systems that control internal organs. We recently used a unique tracing method to identify the areas of the cerebral cortex that communicate through multi-synaptic connections with the adrenal medulla, a major sympathetic effector. We also applied a similar method to identify the areas of the cerebral cortex that communicate with the stomach. Our results suggest that there is a link between the descending control of core muscles and the regulation of sympathetic output. We also demonstrate that different cortical networks are involved in the regulation of parasympahetic and sympathetic output. These findings provide an anatomical basis for psychosomatic illness.
Understand the role of cortical motor areas in the control of sympathetic output.
Recognize the frontal lobe contributions to the control of autonomic output.
Discuss which areas of the cerebral cortex are both unique to primates and influence autonomic output.