muscle, the contractile tissue that effects the movement of and within the body. Muscle tissue in the higher animals is classified as striated, smooth, or cardiac, according to its structure and function. Striated, or skeletal, muscle forms the bulk of the body's muscle tissue and gives the body its general shape. It is called striated because it appears striped, in alternating bands of light and dark, when viewed under a microscope, and animals have conscious control over most of their striate muscles. Smooth muscle, which lines most of the hollow organs of the body, is not under voluntary control, but is regulated by the autonomic nervous system. Smooth muscle fibers are spindle-shaped, not striated, and generally are arranged in dense sheets. Smooth muscle lines the blood vessels, hair follicles, urinary tract, digestive tract, and genital tract. Its speed of contraction is slower than that of striated muscle, but it can remain contracted longer. Cardiac muscle is striated like skeletal muscle but, like smooth muscle, is controlled involuntarily. It is found only in the heart, where it forms that organ's thick walls. The contractions of cardiac muscle are stimulated by a special clump of muscle tissue located on the heart (the pacemaker), although the rate of contractions is subject to regulation by the autonomic nervous system.
Sections in this article:
- Muscle Contraction
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