Role of the nervous system in experimentally induced arrhythmias

Cardiology. 1976;61(1):37-49. doi: 10.1159/000169746.


The purpose of our studies was to examine the role of the nervous system in arrhythmias produced by digitalis overdose and coronary artery occlusion in the cat. This was done by observing the effect of these arrhythmogenic procedures on cardiac efferent neural activity and then determining whether any observed alteration in neural activity contributed to the cardiac rhythm disturbances evoked by digitalis and coronary artery occlusion. Our data indicate that both procedures used to evoke arrhythmias activate each division of the autonomic nervous system. Activation of the sympathetic nervous system resulted in a deleterious effect on cardiac rhythm whereas activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, in general, resulted in a beneficial effect on cardiac rhythm. With coronary occlusion, the role exerted by the nervous system depended on the anatomic location of the involved myocardium. Studies directed at elucidating the mechanisms whereby the nervous system caused cardiac rhythm disturbances indicated that there may be an important difference between the antiarrhythmic efficacy of beta-adrenergic blockade and bilateral stellate ganglionectomy. The latter procedure proved to be a more effective way of removing deleterious sympathetic neural effects on the heart. In conclusion, our findings suggest that the development of new drugs for treating arrhythmias resulting from digitalis and coronary occlusion should be aimed at finding drugs that act to either depress central sympathetic outflow or enhance parasympathetic effects on the ventricle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / chemically induced
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology*
  • Atropine / pharmacology
  • Cats
  • Coronary Circulation
  • Denervation
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology*
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology
  • Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Ouabain / poisoning*
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Picrotoxin / pharmacology
  • Propranolol / pharmacology
  • Stellate Ganglion / physiology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Vagus Nerve / physiopathology


  • Picrotoxin
  • Ouabain
  • Atropine
  • Propranolol