Baroreceptors: Definition, Function & Location

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  • 0:00 Baroreceptor: Definition
  • 0:47 Regulating Blood Pressure
  • 1:35 Baroreceptors At Work
  • 3:47 Locations Of Baroreceptors
  • 4:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Hilary North

Hilary is a biomedical researcher with a PhD in neuroscience.

What is a baroreceptor? Review the importance of maintaining and accurately adjusting blood pressure. Learn the purpose of baroreceptors in the function of the body, how they work and where in the body they are located.

Baroreceptor: Definition

A baroreceptor is a specialized nerve ending that allows your brain to sense blood flow and blood pressure in the major blood vessels of your circulatory system. The circulatory system is the vast network of blood vessels, including veins, which brings blood from all over your body back to the lungs; and arteries, which send blood from the lungs to your other cells and organs. Blood pressure is the amount of force blood exerts on the vein or artery in which it is traveling.

The higher the blood pressure in a particular blood vessel, the more blood is traveling through that vessel to the organs that the vessel innervates. Information about blood pressure and blood flow is needed in the brain so that adjustments can be made whenever necessary.

Regulating Blood Pressure

Though you rarely need to think about it, your blood pressure is one of the most important components to your survival. When it is too low, you feel woozy and may even pass out. Too high? The stress becomes unbearable and comes with long-term risks to your heart health.

But sometimes you need your blood pressure to rise: a surge in blood pressure allows you to meet a challenge, such as running a race or fleeing a predator. If you are digesting a meal, more blood is allocated to your stomach, which requires a change in pressure to accomplish. Taking a test? More blood to the brain!

Now that you're considering all the different scenarios in which your body needs to regulate blood pressure and blood flow, you're probably impressed that it can accomplish all of that without you ever noticing. For this incredible ability, you have your baroreceptors to thank.

Baroreceptors at Work

A baroreceptor is a type of mechanoreceptor. Mechanoreceptors are specialized nerve endings that are built to detect a change in pressure or tension and relay that information to the brain through the neurons in the nervous system. Mechanoreceptors can be found all over the body. Mechanoreceptors exist in the skin so that we can understand what we are touching, in joints and muscles so that we can understand how our body is positioned, and along blood vessels so that our brains can understand where our blood is flowing and what the pressure is in various parts of our circulatory system.

Perhaps you have been sitting down for a long period of time, studying for your next exam. When you stand up after reading this lesson, you may experience a drop in blood pressure. As a result, less blood will reach your brain and you will feel dizzy. In a minute you'll be back to normal. It is unlikely that your brain will continue to not receive blood, resulting in a fainting spell. How did baroreceptors contribute to your ability to recover?

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