Afferent vagal modulation Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • UNLABELLED: The frequency composition of a continuous time series of R-R intervals may be viewed as the phasic output of a central processing system intimately dependent on sensory input from a variety of afferent sources. While different measures of heart rate variability permit a glimpse into the autonomic efferent limb of this complex system, direct access of afferent fibers in humans has remained elusive. Using a specially designed esophageal catheter/manometer probe, we have been able to gain access to vagal afferent fibers in the distal esophagus. Our studies on the effect of vagal afferent electrostimulation on both cerebral evoked potentials (EvP) and the power spectrum of heart rate variability have yielded the following observations: 1. Stimulation of esophageal vagal afferents dramatically and reproducibly increases the high frequency (HF) vagal power and reduces the low frequency (LF) power of the heart rate autospectrum. 2. This effect is constant across stimulation frequencies from 0.1 to 1.0 Hz and across stimulation intensities from 2.5 to 20 mA. 3. Regardless of the stimulation parameters, there are only minimal changes in heart rate (2-6 bpm) and no change in respiratory frequency. 4. There is a linear correlation between electrical stimulation intensity and the amplitude of cerebral evoked potentials, whereas there is a non-linear relationship with all short-term power spectral indices. 5. While cerebral evoked potentials are only elicited at stimulation intensities above perception threshold, there is already a significant shift to increased vagal efferent modulation well below perception threshold. CONCLUSION: These studies support the concept that power spectral indices of heart rate variability represent phasic output responses to tonic afferent viscerosensory signals in humans. These studies also demonstrate the feasibility of accessing vagal afferents in humans.

publication date

  • July 2001