Cardiac chronotropic organization of the rat insular cortex

Brain Res. 1990 Nov 12;533(1):66-72. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(90)91796-j.


Clinical evidence implicates the cerebral cortex in the genesis of ECG changes and cardiac arrhythmias. Such findings are not infrequent following acute cortical stroke and during partial seizures. Electrical stimulation of the cerebral cortex, however, only rarely and inconsistently results in cardiac changes. When encountered, attendant alterations in blood pressure and respiration occur; consequently, it is unclear whether the cardiac effects are primary or secondary to these. Phasic insular cortex microstimulation linked to the ECG cycle, a new technique, elicits only heart rate effects, eliminating confounding variables. The insular cortex was chosen for study because of its profuse autonomic and limbic connectivity. Cardiac chronotropic sites were demonstrated in 37 chloralose-anesthetized rats, with tachycardia represented in the rostral posterior insula, and bradycardia in the caudal posterior insula. Both effects were abolished by atenolol but not by atropine, implying their mediation by respective increases or decreases in sympathetic activity. This is the first report of the demonstration of a cortical region wherein stimulation affects heart rate and no other parameter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology
  • Atenolol / pharmacology
  • Atropine / pharmacology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / physiopathology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrocardiography
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Atenolol
  • Atropine