Sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) is modulated by respiratory activity which indicates the existence of direct interactions between the respiratory and sympathetic networks within the brainstem. Our experimental studies reveal that T(E) prolongation evoked by baroreceptor stimulation varies with respiratory phase and depends on the pons. We speculate that the sympathetic baroreceptor reflex, providing negative feedback from baroreceptors to the rostral ventrolateral medulla and SNA, has two pathways: one direct and independent of the respiratory-sympathetic interactions and the other operating via the respiratory pattern generator and is hence dependent on the respiratory modulation of SNA. Our experimental studies in the perfused in situ rat preparation and complementary computational modelling studies support the hypothesis that baroreceptor activation during expiration prolongs the T(E) via transient activation of post-inspiratory and inhibition of augmenting expiratory neurones of the Bötzinger Complex (BötC). We propose that these BötC neurones are also involved in the respiratory modulation of SNA, and contribute to the respiratory modulation of the sympathetic baroreceptor reflex.
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