What Is the Relationship between the Nervous System and Circulatory System?

Jennifer Long
Jennifer Long
The structure of the aorta, part of the circulatory system.
The structure of the aorta, part of the circulatory system.

The nervous system and circulatory system are connected through organ and bodily function control. All functions of the body are regulated by the brain through the nervous system. Without messages from the brain, the circulatory system does not work. Heart function and fluid circulation are triggered by the nervous system.

Human circulatory systems are a network of vessels, capillaries, and other passageways that are vital to the body. The circulatory system has two divisions. Blood, oxygen, and other important materials are maintained by the cardiovascular system. Lymph fluid and other non-blood materials are maintained by the lymphatic system. Messages sent from the brain control both aspects of the circulatory system.

A person with visible blood vessels, which are part of the circulatory system.
A person with visible blood vessels, which are part of the circulatory system.

The nervous system is the system of the body that is composed of the brain, the spinal cord, and all of the nerves throughout the body. It is the system that controls all functions, large or small. Nerves relay information to and from the brain to operate muscles and the organs within each of the other systems in the body.

One of the ways the nervous system and circulatory system work together is for blood pressure and heart rate regulation. A specific nerve, called the vagus nerve, controls the pumping of the heart. When the heart pumps, it circulates blood through the blood passageways around the body to the organs. Receptors, called baroreceptors, pass information about blood pressure to the brain so the brain can make adjustments to how the heart pumps. Through this control, blood pressure is maintained at optimal levels.

The nervous system and circulatory system are connected through the lymphatic system.
The nervous system and circulatory system are connected through the lymphatic system.

The nervous system and circulatory system are also connected through the lymphatic system and its functions. One of the main purposes of the lymphatic system is to work with the immune system to protect the body from pathogens and foreign antigens that cause illnesses. Although the organ system includes the spleen, thymus, and adenoid, circulatory vessels are also found in the lymphatic system. These vessels carry lymph fluid, which is a clear fluid that transports interstitial fluid, proteins, and white blood cells called lymphocytes to the blood. It also carries antigens and pathogens to lymph nodes to be destroyed by the immune system.

The nervous and circulatory systems are dependent on each other to ensure an individual's homostasis.
The nervous and circulatory systems are dependent on each other to ensure an individual's homostasis.

Through the brain and spinal cord, the nervous system and circulatory system are dependent on each other to ensure a person’s homeostasis. The nervous system may have control over important body functions, but the circulatory system must relay information so that adjustments are made. Both systems need to function properly and work together to ensure that the rest of the body functions properly.

How Does the Nervous System Interact with the Circulatory System?

Problems with the circulatory system may result in leg swelling.
Problems with the circulatory system may result in leg swelling.

This complex relationship involves the circulatory system bringing sugar and oxygen to the neurons in the nervous system. The circulatory system also moves hormones and neurotransmitters. The nervous system regulates the rate and strength of the heartbeat, which changes the speed of the blood pumping through the body. 

The nervous system uses sympathetic and parasympathetic fibers to change the rate and power of the heartbeat. The nervous system also uses the sympathetic fibers to adjust the blood vessel diameter and blood pressure. It directs the blood to and from areas of the body as needed. 

Neuroendocrine cells in the nervous system secrete hormones into the circulatory system. On the flip side, the circulatory system acts as a metabolic waste-removal system while also feeding the system with fresh blood.

The systems also work together as some arteries in the circulatory system have nerve endings that send messages about blood pressure, pH, oxygen, and CO2 levels so the body can self-regulate and return to homeostasis.

What Are the Differences Between the Nervous System and Circulatory System?

The two vital organ systems function together but affect the body differently. For example, the nervous system sends electrochemical signals through the body, and the circulatory system moves blood through the body. 

The specialized nerve cells send, receive, and process messages from the brain to the body and back to the brain. Blood vessels move blood to nourish the body and remove waste from the body. 

Receptors pass information about blood pressure to the brain so the brain can make adjustments to how the heart pumps.
Receptors pass information about blood pressure to the brain so the brain can make adjustments to how the heart pumps.

Both systems involve specialized networks that function independently of each other, but they also rely on each other. For example, the circulatory system would not work without messages from the nervous system. The nervous system relies on the circulatory system for some of its messages. 

What Are Nerves? 

Neurons are the main component of the nervous system. They send, receive, and interpret messages from the body and brain. 

Blood, oxygen, and other life-maintaining ingredients are ferried through the human cardiovascular system.
Blood, oxygen, and other life-maintaining ingredients are ferried through the human cardiovascular system.

The human body has billions of neurons made of the cell body, dendrites, and an axon. The dendrites receive the messages, then send them to the axon to convert them into chemical signals called neurotransmitters that pass through an empty space called the synapse. Dendrites in other neurons pick up the neurotransmitters and continue the process. 

The nervous system has three types of nerves: sensory, motor, and relay. 

  • The sensory nerves send messages to the organs in the central nervous system. 
  • The relay nerves move messages through the central nervous system to organs. 
  • The motor nerves control muscle movements in the musculoskeletal system. 

Nerves rely on Schwann cells to send an efficient energy message. Schwann cells insulate the nerves with myelin, a fatty substance that wraps around the axons. 

What Are Blood Vessels? 

The main components of the circulatory system include the heart, blood, and blood vessels. This closed system relies on blood vessels to move blood around the body using the heart as the pumping mechanism. 

Arteries, veins, and capillaries are the three types of blood vessels. Arteries move the nutrient-rich oxygenated blood from the heart to the body, while the veins bring the blood back to the heart for reoxygenation. Arteries and veins are larger than capillaries, and the smallest blood vessels move blood to the tissues and organs. 

How Do the Nervous System and Circulatory System Interact with Other Systems? 

The nervous system instructs muscles to move the bones in the skeletal system. It regulates blood pressure and heart rate in the cardiovascular system while also sending and receiving messages from the endocrine system about releasing hormones. Hormones move through the body via the circulatory system. 

The nervous system works closely with the lymphatic system to fight infections. The circulatory system sends infection fighters based on messages from the lymphatic and nervous systems. 

In the respiratory system, the brain relies on the nervous system to maintain an ideal respiratory rate while communicating with the circulatory and cardiovascular systems. 

The digestive system uses the autonomic nervous system to digest food, while the brain sends messages to the body to eat and drink. The nutrients from the digestive system eventually get into the circulatory system to feed the organs and tissues. 

All systems rely on messages from the brain and nerves in the nervous system, along with the blood and oxygen from the circulatory system. 

Discussion Comments

burcidi

I have a relative who is paralyzed from the hip down. I didn't understand what this means at first but after reading about the relationship between the nervous and circulatory system, I get it.

Because of the injury to her spine, the connection between the two systems were upset. Her brain still sends messages to the other systems but they don't receive it. Am I right?

turquoise

@feruze-- You touched on a good point. That definitely happens.

For example, my mom has high blood pressure and whenever she's upset, her blood pressure goes up. This is probably the best example of how our thoughts affect the function of the circulatory system.

All the systems in the body are interlinked. When something happens in one, others are also affected. Like when my mom is upset, the nervous system triggers a release of adrenaline which is controlled by the endocrine system. This adrenaline then causes the heart to beat faster which is controlled by the circulatory system.

bear78

Is it because of this relationship between the nervous system and circulatory system that people have physical disorders when they're stressed or upset?

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    • The structure of the aorta, part of the circulatory system.
      By: bilderzwerg
      The structure of the aorta, part of the circulatory system.
    • A person with visible blood vessels, which are part of the circulatory system.
      By: dimedrol68
      A person with visible blood vessels, which are part of the circulatory system.
    • The nervous system and circulatory system are connected through the lymphatic system.
      By: blueringmedia
      The nervous system and circulatory system are connected through the lymphatic system.
    • The nervous and circulatory systems are dependent on each other to ensure an individual's homostasis.
      By: SCHMaster
      The nervous and circulatory systems are dependent on each other to ensure an individual's homostasis.
    • Problems with the circulatory system may result in leg swelling.
      By: Ocskay Bence
      Problems with the circulatory system may result in leg swelling.
    • Receptors pass information about blood pressure to the brain so the brain can make adjustments to how the heart pumps.
      By: Monika Wisniewska
      Receptors pass information about blood pressure to the brain so the brain can make adjustments to how the heart pumps.
    • Blood, oxygen, and other life-maintaining ingredients are ferried through the human cardiovascular system.
      By: snapgalleria
      Blood, oxygen, and other life-maintaining ingredients are ferried through the human cardiovascular system.