Effect of age on autonomic and cardiac responses in a rat stroke model

Arch Neurol. 1992 Jul;49(7):690-6. doi: 10.1001/archneur.1992.00530310032009.


The cardiovascular system and its responses change with increasing age. This has seldom been considered in experimental models of stroke, although most strokes occur in the elderly. We studied 57 male Wistar rats in three age groups: 47 to 70 days old (juvenile), 110 to 152 days old (young adult), and 186 to 245 days old (mature adult), each group being subdivided into experimental and sham operation groups. All rats underwent occlusion or sham occlusion of the left middle cerebral artery and monitoring of the mean arterial blood pressure, heart rate, sympathetic nerve activity, plasma catecholamine levels, and electrocardiogram. Eight of the 12 rats in the oldest group died within 6 hours of the middle cerebral artery occlusion; of these, the youngest was 186 days old. The mature adult rats that died before completion of the experiment showed the highest level of sympathetic nerve activity and the only significant increase in the QT interval of the electrocardiogram. Following middle cerebral artery occlusion, sympathetic nerve activity increased in the young adult rats but most strikingly in the mature adult rats that died before the end of the 6-hour experiments. Plasma norepinephrine levels were significantly elevated at 4 and 6 hours after middle cerebral artery occlusion in the oldest group and only at 6 hours in the juvenile rats. The results of this study are consistent with impaired sympathetic and cardiovascular regulation in the mature adult rat. High sympathetic activity may represent one mechanism leading to fatal cardiac arrhythmias. Age-related impairment of sympathetic regulation may contribute to the higher mortality seen among elderly patients with stroke.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / blood
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / mortality
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Heart Rate
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine / blood
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology*


  • Norepinephrine