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Auton Neurosci. 2006 Jan 30;124(1-2):103-11. Epub 2006 Feb 3.

Influence of innocuous cervical vertebral movement on the efferent innervation of the adrenal gland in the rat.

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  • 1School of Biomedical Science, Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, 2308, Australia; Hunter Medical Research Institute, New Lambton, NSW, Australia.


In general, in central nervous system intact anesthetized animals, adrenal sympathetic efferent nerve activity and catecholamine secretion increase in response to noxious somatic stimulation, and decrease in response to innocuous somatic stimulation. In anesthetized rats, noxious chemical stimulation of the thoracic and lumbar interspinous tissues is associated with large increases in adrenal sympathetic efferent nerve activity and catecholamine secretion, with a clear segmental organization to the reflex apparent in spinalized animals. However, the adrenal sympathetic nerve responses to mechanical stimulation in the form of pressure applied laterally to the lower thoracic and lower lumbar vertebrae do not display segmental organization, and the depressor response is more characteristic of responses to innocuous somatic stimulation despite the use of large forces (up to 3.0 kg). Therefore, we sought to determine whether innocuous movements of the mechanoreceptor-rich deep tissues of the neck modulate the sympathetic outflow to the adrenal gland. We performed experiments in 14 anaesthetised (Urethane 1 g/kg and Chloralose 0.1 g/kg) adult rats. Rats were intubated and breathed spontaneously. A computer driven small animal manipulator was used to impose ramp and hold rotational displacements (12 degrees /s, hold duration 2 s) of the 2nd cervical vertebra (range 2-30 degrees ) while recording multi-unit activity from sympathetic nerves innervating the adrenal gland. While noxious forepaw pinch elicited an increase in sympathetic nerve activity to the adrenal gland, there was no significant change in sympathetic nerve activity with small (2 degrees or 6 degrees ) rotations. Significant changes (P<0.05) in sympathetic activity were observed in only 7% (n=21) of all trials at larger displacements (12 degrees , 20 degrees , 25 degrees , 30 degrees n=287 trials). Our data suggest that although noxious stimuli may modulate sympathetic outflow, it is rare for afferents signalling innocuous cervical vertebral movements to modulate sympathetic nerves innervating the adrenal gland.

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