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Rapid rhythmic discharges of sympathetic nerves: Sources, mechanisms of generation, and physiological relevance



Rapid rhythmic discharges of sympathetic nerves: Sources, mechanisms of generation, and physiological relevance



Journal of Biological Rhythms 15(5): 365-379



Like virtually all other physiological control systems, the sympathetic nervous system controlling cardiovascular function is characterized by the presence of rhythmic activity. These include slow rhythms with frequencies at or below that of the respiration and rapid rhythms with frequencies at or above that of the heart beat. The rapid rhythms are the subject of this review. The specific questions entertained are as follows: (1) Are the rapid cardiac-related and 10-Hz rhythms inherent to central sympathetic networks, or are they imposed on sympathetic nerve discharge (SND) by extrinsic periodic inputs? (2) Does basal SND arise from an anatomically circumscribed "vasomotor center" composed of pacemaker neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla or from an anatomically distributed network oscillator composed of different types of brainstem neurons, none of which necessarily have intrinsic pacemaker properties? (3) Are the rapid rhythms generated by single circuits or by systems of coupled oscillators, each with a separate target? (4) Are the rapid rhythms in SND simply by-products of the sympathetic generating mechanisms, or do they subserve selective and special functions, such as the formulation of differential patterns of spinal sympathetic outflow that support particular behaviors? The controversial aspects of these issues and the state-of-the-art analytical methods used to study them are stressed in this review.

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Accession: 010036323

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PMID: 11039915

DOI: 10.1177/074873000129001468


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