This is the first systematic study of the effects of ventricular premature beats on sympathetic nerve activity in humans. Microneurographic techniques were used to record efferent sympathetic activity from the peroneal nerve, and an intracardiac electrode catheter was used to introduce ventricular premature beats after every 6 to 10 sinus heartbeats. Studies were performed in eight patients, aged 22 to 74 years (mean 57), undergoing cardiac electrophysiologic studies. Three patients did not have apparent heart disease and five had coronary artery disease. During sinus rhythm, 19 to 93% (mean 42%) of heartbeats were followed by a pulse-synchronous burst of sympathetic activity. Provoked ventricular premature beats had obvious effects on this activity. Premature beats with coupling intervals <80% of sinus cycle length were consistently followed by a burst of sympathetic activity, and this activity was greater in amplitude, duration and area (all p < 0.05) than were bursts of such activity during sinus rhythm. The magnitude of this burst of activity increased as the coupling interval of the ventricular premature beat decreased (p < 0.0001). In contrast, postextrasystolic beats were followed by nearly complete neural silence. These effects were seen in all patients regardless of baseline burst incidence and the presence or absence of heart disease. Total nerve activity per 10 heartbeats was 6,520 ± 770 U during ventricular extrastimulation and 5,720 ± 440 U during normal sinus rhythm (difference not significant). It is concluded that single ventricular premature beats provoke fluxes of muscle sympathetic nerve activity in humans, comprising surges of sympathetic activity larger than those occurring during sinus rhythm, followed by neural silence.