Source: OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology
Baroreceptors are specialized stretch receptors located within thin areas of blood vessels and heart chambers that respond to the degree of stretch caused by the presence of blood. They send impulses to the cardiovascular center to regulate blood pressure. Vascular baroreceptors are found primarily in sinuses (small cavities) within the aorta and carotid arteries: The aortic sinuses are found in the walls of the ascending aorta just superior to the aortic valve, whereas the carotid sinuses are in the base of the internal carotid arteries. There are also low-pressure baroreceptors located in the walls of the venae cavae and right atrium.
When blood pressure increases, the baroreceptors are stretched more tightly and initiate action potentials at a higher rate. At lower blood pressures, the degree of stretch is lower and the rate of firing is slower. When the cardiovascular center in the medulla oblongata receives this input, it triggers a reflex that maintains homeostasis.
• When blood pressure rises too high, the baroreceptors fire at a higher rate and trigger parasympathetic stimulation of the heart. As a result, cardiac output falls. Sympathetic stimulation of the peripheral arterioles will also decrease, resulting in vasodilation. Combined, these activities cause blood pressure to fall.
• When blood pressure drops too low, the rate of baroreceptor firing decreases. This will trigger an increase in sympathetic stimulation of the heart, causing cardiac output to increase. It will also trigger sympathetic stimulation of the peripheral vessels, resulting in vasoconstriction. Combined, these activities cause blood pressure to rise.
The baroreceptors in the venae cavae and right atrium monitor blood pressure as the blood returns to the heart from the systemic circulation. Normally, blood flow into the aorta is the same as blood flow back into the right atrium. If blood is returning to the right atrium more rapidly than it is being ejected from the left ventricle, the atrial receptors will stimulate the cardiovascular centers to increase sympathetic firing and increase cardiac output until homeostasis is achieved. The opposite is also true. This mechanism is referred to as the atrial reflex.
Betts, J. G., Young, K. A., Wise, J. A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D. H., … DeSaix, P. (n.d.). Anatomy and Physiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax.
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