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Keywords:

  • blood pressure;
  • cardiovascular;
  • circulation;
  • hypertension;
  • sympathetic nervous system

Abstract

Sympathetic neural control of cardiovascular function is essential for normal regulation of blood pressure and tissue perfusion. In the present review we discuss sympathetic neural mechanisms in human cardiovascular physiology and pathophysiology, with a focus on evidence from direct recordings of sympathetic nerve activity using microneurography. Measurements of sympathetic nerve activity to skeletal muscle have provided extensive information regarding reflex control of blood pressure and blood flow in conditions ranging from rest to postural changes, exercise, and mental stress in populations ranging from healthy controls to patients with hypertension and heart failure. Measurements of skin sympathetic nerve activity have also provided important insights into neural control, but are often more difficult to interpret since the activity contains several types of nerve impulses with different functions. Although most studies have focused on group mean differences, we provide evidence that individual variability in sympathetic nerve activity is important to the ultimate understanding of these integrated physiological mechanisms. Muscle Nerve, 2007