I’ll say this time and time again, but Double Psychology on Fridays is a glorious thing, and I’ll be really upset in year 13 when we won’t have this opportunity again. My teachers are wonderful – weird but wonderful, and if it were any other class on a Friday I don’t think it would be as enjoyable. Our class is fairly small, but fabulous. I think I like being in small groups much better than large, as it’s much easier to get a word in!
Recently we have been learning about the peripheral nervous system and the fight or flight response. We had previously been told to learn the block diagram detailing the subdivisions of the nervous system, so the starter activity of the lesson was to draw it out from memory. We got to work. When I say work I mean ‘writing whatever whilst internally panicking because nobody bothered to learn the diagram’.
A deafening sound split the silence, and the entire class jumped about half a metre into the air, some with a squeal, scream or yelp. Even now I’m not sure what the teacher did to make that sound as my back was to where he was at the time, but the sound was loud, sudden and terrifying.
“Okay, girls,” he sort of said. (My memory isn’t the best.) “Your next task is to explain what just happened there.”
We knew a bit. Activity in the sympathetic nervous system increases, adrenaline is secreted from the adrenal gland which causes the heart rate to increase, blood to be diverted from the stomach to muscles, pupils to dilate and so on. We were all laughing nervously and calling the teacher evil under our breaths. My limbs also kind of tingled – I think that was the blood? Maybe? We were experiencing the fight or flight response, and the aftermath caused by the other part of the peripheral nervous system – the parasympathetic nervous system, which acts to reverse the changes caused by the sympathetic nervous system.
There is also something called the parasympathetic rebound, where you get a bit sleepy after activity in the sympathetic nervous system increases, because the parasympathetic increases afterwards slowing a bunch of things right down, like your heart rate and breathing rate. I guess it explains why I was twice as exhausted for the rest of the lesson!