The present study was designed to investigate brain stem responses to manual acupuncture (MA) and electroacupuncture (EA) at different frequencies at pericardial P (5-6) acupoints located over the median nerve. Activity of premotor sympathetic cardiovascular neurons in the rostral ventral lateral medulla (rVLM) was recorded during stimulation of visceral and somatic afferents in ventilated anesthetized rats. We stimulated either the splanchnic nerve at 2 Hz (0.1-0.4 mA, 0.5 ms) or the median nerve for 30 s at 2, 10, 20, 40, or 100 Hz using EA (0.3-0.5 mA, 0.5 ms) or at approximately 2 Hz with MA. Twelve of 18 cells responsive to splanchnic and median nerve stimulation could be antidromically driven from the intermediolateral columns of the thoracic spinal cord, T2-T4, indicating that they were premotor sympathetic neurons. All 18 neurons received baroreceptor input, providing evidence of their cardiovascular sympathoexcitatory function. Evoked responses during stimulation of the splanchnic nerve were inhibited by 49 +/- 6% (n = 7) with EA and by 46 +/- 4% (n = 6) with MA, indicating that the extent of inhibitory effects of the two modalities were similar. Inhibition lasted for 20 min after termination of EA or MA. Cardiovascular premotor rVLM neurons responded to 2-Hz electrical stimulation at P 5-6 and to a lesser extent to 10-, 20-, 40-, and 100-Hz stimulation (53 +/- 10, 16 +/- 2, 8 +/- 2, 2 +/- 1, and 0 +/- 0 impulses/30 stimulations, n = 7). These results indicate that rVLM premotor sympathetic cardiovascular neurons that receive convergent input from the splanchnic and median nerves during low-frequency EA and MA are inhibited similarly for prolonged periods by low-frequency MA and EA.