Exaggerated sympathetic and cardiovascular responses to stimulation of the mesencephalic locomotor region in spontaneously hypertensive rats

Nan Liang, Jere H. Mitchell, Scott A. Smith, Masaki Mizuno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The sympathetic and pressor responses to exercise are exaggerated in hypertension. However, the underlying mechanisms causing this abnormality remain to be fully elucidated. Central command, a neural drive originating in higher brain centers, is known to activate cardiovascular and locomotor control circuits concomitantly. As such, it is a viable candidate for the generation of the augmented vascular response to exercise in this disease. We hypothesized that augmentations in central command function contribute to the heightened cardiovascular response to exercise in hypertension. To test this hypothesis, changes in renal sympathetic nerve activity (RSNA) and mean arterial pressure (MAP) in response to electrical stimulation of mesencephalic locomotor region (MLR; 20–50 μA in 10- μA steps evoking fictive locomotion), a putative component of the central command pathway, were examined in decerebrate, paralyzed normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) and spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). Tibial nerve discharge during MLR stimulation significantly increased in an intensity-dependent manner in both WKY and SHR but was not different between groups. Stimulation of the MLR evoked significantly larger increases in RSNA and MAP with increasing stimulation intensity in both groups. Importantly, the increases in sympathetic and pressor responses to this fictive locomotion were significantly greater in SHR compared with WKY across all stimulation intensities (e.g., at 50 μA, ΔRSNA: WKY 153 ±31%, SHR 287 ±42%; ΔMAP: WKY 87 ±9 mmHg, SHR 139 ±7 mmHg). These findings provide the first evidence that central command may be a critical contributor to the exaggerated rise in sympathetic activity and blood pressure during exercise in hypertension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H123-H131
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2016


  • Arterial blood pressure
  • Central command
  • Exercise
  • Hypertension
  • Sympathetic nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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