Resetting of sympathetic rhythm by somatic afferents causes post-reflex coordination of sympathetic activity in rat


Corresponding author M. P. Gilbey: Department of Physiology, Royal Free and University College Medical School, University College London, London NW3 2PF, UK. Email:


  • We have proposed previously that graded synchronous activity is produced by periodic inputs acting on weakly coupled or uncoupled oscillators influencing the discharges of a population of cutaneous vasoconstrictor sympathetic postganglionic neurones (PGNs) in anaesthetized rats.

  • Here we investigated the effects of somatic afferent (superficial radial nerve, RaN) stimulation, on the rhythmic discharges of this population. We recorded (1) at the population level from the ventral collector nerve and (2) from single PGNs focally from the caudal ventral artery of the tail.

  • Following RaN stimulation we observed an excitatory response followed by a period of reduced discharge and subsequent rhythmical discharges seemingly phase-locked to the stimulus.

  • We suggest that the rhythmical discharges following the initial excitatory response (conventional reflex) result from a resetting of sympathetic rhythm generators such that rhythmic PGN activity is synchronized transiently. We also demonstrate that a natural mechanical stimulus can produce a similar pattern of response.

  • Our results support the idea that in sympathetic control, resetting of multiple oscillators driving the rhythmic discharges of a population of PGNs may provide a mechanism for producing a sustained and coordinated response to somatic input.