Neurochemical modulation of cardiovascular control in the nucleus tractus solitarius

Prog Neurobiol. 1996 Jan;48(1):21-53. doi: 10.1016/0301-0082(95)00034-8.


The central control of cardiovascular function has been keenly studied for a number of decades. Of particular interest are the homeostatic control mechanisms, such as the baroreceptor heart-rate reflex, the chemoreceptor reflex, the Bezold-Jarisch reflex and the Breuer-Hering reflex. These neurally-mediated reflexes share a common termination point for their respective centrally-projecting sensory afferents, namely the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS). Thus, the NTS clearly plays a critical role in the integration of peripherally initiated sensory information regarding the status of blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory function. Many endogenous neurochemicals, from simple amino acids through biogenic amines to complex peptides have the ability to modulate blood pressure and heart rate at the level of the NTS. This review will attempt to collate the current knowledge regarding the roles of neuromodulators in the NTS, the receptor types involved in mediating observed responses and the degree of importance of such neurochemicals in the tonic regulation of the cardiovascular system. The neural pathway that controls the baroreceptor heart-rate reflex will be the main focus of attention, including discussion of the identity of the neurotransmitter(s) thought to act at baroafferent terminals within the NTS. In addition, this review will provide a timely update on the use of recently developed molecular biological techniques that have been employed in the study of the NTS, complementing more classical research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Cardiovascular System / innervation*
  • Solitary Nucleus / drug effects*
  • Solitary Nucleus / physiology*