Measurement of sympathetic nerve activity in the unanesthetized rat

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1989 Jul;67(1):250-5. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1989.67.1.250.


A new system was developed in our laboratory to continuously monitor intra-arterial pressure, heart rate, and sympathetic nerve activity in unanesthetized rats. The animals were prepared 24 h before the start of the experiments. Sympathoneural traffic was measured at the level of splanchnic nerve. The amplitude of the spikes recorded at this level was utilized to express sympathetic nerve activity. The amplitude of the residual electroneurogram signal present 30 min after the rats were killed was 32 +/- 2 mV (mean +/- SE; n = 11). For analysis, these background values were subtracted from values determined in vivo. The nerve we studied contains postganglionic fibers, since electrical activity decreased in response to ganglionic blockade with pentolinium (1.25 mg/min iv for 4 min). The amplitude of spikes fell by 43 +/- 4% (n = 4). Sympathetic nerve activity was highly reproducible at a 24-h interval (104 +/- 26 vs. 111 +/- 27 mV for the amplitude of spikes; n = 11). Dose-response curves to the alpha 1-stimulant methoxamine and to bradykinin were established in four rats. The increase in blood pressure induced by methoxamine caused a dose-dependent fall in sympathetic nerve activity, whereas the blood pressure reduction resulting from bradykinin was associated with a dose-dependent activation of sympathetic drive. These data therefore indicate that it is possible with out system to accurately measure sympathetic nerve activity in the awake rat, together with intra-arterial pressure and heart rate.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Heart Rate*
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / methods*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Splanchnic Nerves / physiology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology*