A brain within the heart: A review on the intracardiac nervous system

J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2018 Jun;119:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2018.04.005. Epub 2018 Apr 10.


Cardiac function is under the control of the autonomic nervous system, composed by the parasympathetic and sympathetic divisions, which are finely tuned at different hierarchical levels. While a complex regulation occurs in the central nervous system involving the insular cortex, the amygdala and the hypothalamus, a local cardiac regulation also takes place within the heart, driven by an intracardiac nervous system. This complex system consists of a network of ganglionic plexuses and interconnecting ganglions and axons. Each ganglionic plexus contains numerous intracardiac ganglia that operate as local integration centres, modulating the intricate autonomic interactions between the extrinsic and intracardiac nervous systems. Herein, we summarize the current understanding on the intracardiac nervous system, and acknowledge its role in the pathophysiology of cardiovascular diseases.

Keywords: Autonomic nervous system; Cardiovascular diseases; Intracardiac ganglia; Intracardiac nervous system; Intracardiac neurons.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Axons / physiology
  • Ganglion Cysts*
  • Heart / innervation*
  • Heart / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiology