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Science. 1995 Oct 27;270(5236):644-6.

Central command neurons of the sympathetic nervous system: basis of the fight-or-flight response.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


During stress, the activity of the sympathetic nervous system is changed in a global fashion, leading to an increase in cardiovascular function and a release of adrenal catecholamines. This response is thought to be regulated by a common set of brain neurons that provide a dual input to the sympathetic preganglionic neurons regulating cardiac and adrenal medullary functions. By using a double-virus transneuronal labeling technique, the existence of such a set of central autonomic neurons in the hypothalamus and brainstem was demonstrated. These neurons innervate both of the sympathetic outflow systems and likely function in circumstances where parallel sympathetic processing occurs, such as in the fight-or-flight response.

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