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Interindividual differences in muscle sympathetic nerve activity: a key to new insight into cardiovascular regulation?

Review article
Authors Gunnar B Wallin
Published in Acta physiologica (Oxford, England)
Volume 190
Issue 4
Pages 265-75
ISSN 1748-1708
Publication year 2007
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation
Pages 265-75
Language en
Keywords Baroreflex, physiology, Blood Pressure, physiology, Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena, Cardiovascular System, innervation, Heart, innervation, physiology, Humans, Muscle, Smooth, Vascular, innervation, physiology, Sympathetic Nervous System, physiology
Subject categories Medical and Health Sciences


The paper reviews findings in humans regarding interindividual differences in sympathetic nerve activity. Data come predominantly from microneurographic multi- or single fibre recordings of sympathetic nerve activity in healthy subjects. Findings relate to interindividual differences in muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) during resting conditions and in response to surprising sensory stimuli. At rest there are marked interindividual differences in the number of multiunit MSNA bursts. At the single fibre level the differences are because of more vasoconstrictor fibres being active in subjects with high than in subjects with low number of bursts. There are inverse relationships between (i) sympathetic burst incidence and cardiac output (CO) and (ii) between sympathetic burst incidence and vascular responsiveness to noradrenaline. Both findings contribute to explaining the absence of correlation between resting levels of MSNA and blood pressure. Surprising visual, somatosensory or auditory stimuli of sufficient strength cause a short lasting inhibition of MSNA in approx. 50-60% of healthy subjects. In subjects who display significant inhibition, the stimulus-induced blood pressure increase is smaller than in subjects without inhibition. The underlying mechanism may be related to fear of blood/injury. It is concluded that analysis of interindividual differences in sympathetic activity improves the understanding of central nervous control of the circulation.

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