Spinal regions involved in baroreflex control of renal sympathetic nerve activity in the rat

Matthew R. Zahner, Lawrence P. Schramm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spinal cord injury causes debilitating cardiovascular disturbances. The etiology of these disturbances remains obscure, partly because the locations of spinal cord pathways important for sympathetic control of cardiovascular function have not been thoroughly studied. To elucidate these pathways, we examined regions of the thoracic spinal cord important for reflex sympathetic control of arterial pressure (AP). In anesthetized rats, baroreceptor relationships between pharmacologically induced changes in AP and changes in left renal sympathetic nerve activity (RSNA) were generated in spinally intact rats and after acute surgical hemisection of either the dorsal, left, or right T8 spinal cord. None of these individual spinal lesions prevented the baroreceptormediated increases in RSNA caused by decreases in AP. Thus, baroreceptor-mediated increases in RSNA in rats are mediated by relatively diffuse, bilateral, descending, excitatory projections. The ability to reduce RSNA at increased AP was impaired after both dorsal and left hemisections, and baroreceptor gain was significantly decreased. Baroreceptor-induced maximum decreases in RSNA were not affected by right hemisections. However, baroreflex gain was impaired. Because both dorsal and left hemisections, but not right hemisections, attenuated the decrease in RSNA at elevated AP, we conclude that pathways involved in the tonic inhibition of spinal sources of sympathetic activity descend ipsilaterally in the dorsal spinal cord. Our results show that many lesions that do not fully transect the spinal cord spare portions of both descending excitatory pathways that may prevent orthostatic hypotension and descending inhibitory pathways that reduce the incidence of autonomic dysreflexia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R910-R916
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Cardiovascular regulation
  • Descending spinal pathways
  • Rostral ventrolateral medulla
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Sympathetic preganglionic neurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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