The discharge behaviour of single vasoconstrictor motoneurones in human muscle nerves.

V. G. Macefield, B. G. Wallin, A. B. Vallbo

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1. The discharge behaviour of fourteen single sympathetic vasoconstrictor efferents was studied using a tungsten microelectrode inserted percutaneously into a motor fascicle of the radial or peroneal nerve in eight awake supine subjects. Units were classified as vasoconstrictor because their firing properties correlated appropriately to changes in cardiac interval and arterial pressure. 2. On average, individual vasoconstrictor units discharged in only 21% of heart beats, with an overall mean frequency of 0.47 Hz. Usually only one spike was generated per cardiac cycle. Calculated from cardiac cycles in which a unit fired from two to seven spikes, the mean within‐burst firing rate was 18.8 +/‐ 2.5 Hz (mean +/‐ S.E.M.); but instantaneous frequencies above 50 Hz were occasionally observed. 3. Measured from a defined R‐wave of the ECG, the spike onset latency varied over 358 +/‐ 33 ms, suggesting considerable variation of synaptic delays in the baroreflex arc. This latency had a relatively uniform temporal relationship with the burst onset or peak latency, compatible with a fixed recruitment order of individual sympathetic neurones. 4. In view of the low average firing rate of individual units we suggest that the variable instantaneous firing rates may optimize the contractile responses of vascular smooth muscle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-809
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 1994
Externally publishedYes

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