Differential baroreflex modulation of human vagal and sympathetic activity

J. M. Fritsch, M. L. Smith, D. T.F. Simmons, D. L. Eckberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We compared baroreflex modulation of human vagal-cardiac and sympathetic muscle activity in healthy volunteers by measuring R-R interval and peroneal nerve responses to a profile of positive and negative (40-65 mmHg) R-wave-triggered neck pressure steps during held expiration. R-R interval responses were sigmoid. Sympathetic activity increased abruptly with 40 mmHg pressure but returned to baseline levels as this pressure was maintained. The first decremental pressure step reduced sympathetic activity to below baseline, and the next three steps inhibited activity. During the final three steps, sympathetic activity increased to baseline, and after the return of neck pressure to ambient levels sympathetic activity increased to the highest levels recorded. Our results suggest that on a second-by-second basis human vagal-cardiac responses are determined simply by the net level of baroreceptor stimulation. Sympathetic muscle responses are determined complexly by the direction of changes (rising or falling) more than absolute arterial pressure levels and importantly by inputs from both carotid and aortic baroreceptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R635-R641
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number3 29-3
StatePublished - 1991


  • Carotid
  • Neck suction
  • Sympathetic muscle
  • Vagal-cardiac activity


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