Gag Reflex - Reflex Arc

Reflex Arc

In a reflex arc, a series of physiological steps occur very rapidly to produce a reflex. Generally a sensory receptor receives an environmental stimulus, in this case from objects reaching nerves in the back of the throat, and sends a message via an afferent nerve to the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS receives this message and sends an appropriate response via an efferent nerve (also known as a motor neuron) to effector cells located in the same initial area that can then carry out the appropriate response.

In the case of the pharyngeal reflex, The sensory limb is mediated predominantly by CNIX (glossopharyngeal nerve), the motor limb by CN X (vagus nerve). The gag reflex involves a brisk and brief elevation of the soft palate and bilateral contraction of pharyngeal muscles evoked by touching the posterior pharyngeal wall. Touching the soft palate can lead to a similar reflex response. However, in that case, the sensory limb of the reflex is the CN V (trigeminal nerve). In very sensitive individuals, much more of the brain stem may be involved; a simple gag may enlarge to retching and vomiting in some.

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