Thermoregulatory and rhythm-generating mechanisms governing the sudomotor and vasoconstrictor outflow in human cutaneous nerves

J Physiol. 1980 Sep;306:537-52. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1980.sp013413.


1. Recordings of multiunit sympathetic activity were made from human nerve fascicles supplying hairy and glabrous skin of the extremities in healthy subjects exposed to different ambient temperatures. Sudomotor and vasomotor events accompanying the neural activity were monitored by simultaneous recordings of electrodermal and pulse plethysmographic events (Pleth) in the neural innervation zones. 2. By exposing the subject to warm (43 degrees C) or cold (15 degrees C) environments, it was possible to obtain a selective activation of either the sudomotor or the vasoconstrictor neural system, respectively, with suppression of spontaneous activity in the other system. 3. Bursts of both vasoconstrictor and sudomotor nerve activity were found to occur at certain preferred intervals which were integer multiples of a period of about 0 . 6 sec (100 cycles/min). With high sudomotor or vasoconstrictor tone the 100 cycles/min rhythm was prominent but with decreasing tone slower subharmonic rhythms prevailed. Respiratory rhythms were also discerned as well as slower rhythms attributable to oscillatory tendencies in thermoregulatory servos. 4. Vasoconstrictor bursts had longer mean duration than sudomotor bursts, a finding attributed to a slower conduction velocity of vasoconstrictor as compared to sudomotor impulses. 5. With increasing incidence of bursts transient electrodermal or plethysmographic responses following individual bursts merged, and thus the fast neural rhythms were not discernible in either the electrodermal or Pleth traces. Given increments in firing rate of nerves produced less additional vasoconstriction at high than at low firing rates. The rhythm generating mechanisms may help to restrict rates of individual fibres to the low range which provides high gain in the neuroeffector transfer functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Adult
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Skin / innervation*
  • Sweat Glands / physiology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Temperature
  • Vasoconstriction