Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 230, Issue 1, pp 137–142

Modulation of muscle sympathetic nerve activity by low-frequency physiological activation of the vestibular utricle in awake humans

Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00221-013-3637-7

Cite this article as:
Hammam, E., Kwok, K. & Macefield, V.G. Exp Brain Res (2013) 230: 137. doi:10.1007/s00221-013-3637-7


We recently showed that selective stimulation of one set of otolithic organs—those located in the utricle, sensitive to displacement in the horizontal axis—causes a marked entrainment of skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA). Here, we assessed whether muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) is similarly modulated. MSNA was recorded via tungsten microelectrodes inserted into cutaneous fascicles of the common peroneal nerve in 12 awake subjects, seated (head vertical, eyes closed) on a motorised platform. Slow sinusoidal accelerations–decelerations (±4 mG) were applied in the X (antero-posterior) or Y (medio-lateral) direction at 0.08 Hz. Cross-correlation analysis revealed partial entrainment of MSNA: vestibular modulation was 32 ± 3 % for displacements in the X-axis and 29 ± 3 % in the Y-axis; these were significantly smaller than those evoked in SSNA (97 ± 3 and 91 ± 5 %, respectively). For each sinusoidal cycle, there were two peaks of modulation—one associated with acceleration as the platform moved forward or to the side and one associated with acceleration in the opposite direction. We believe the two peaks reflect inertial displacement of the stereocilia within the utricle during sinusoidal acceleration, which evokes vestibulosympathetic reflexes that are expressed as vestibular modulation of MSNA as well as of SSNA. The smaller vestibular modulation of MSNA can be explained by the dominant modulation of MSNA by the arterial baroreceptors.


MSNA Sympathetic Utricle Vestibular 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elie Hammam
    • 1
  • Kenny Kwok
    • 2
  • Vaughan G. Macefield
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.School of MedicineUniversity of Western SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Institute for Infrastructure EngineeringUniversity of Western SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Neuroscience Research AustraliaSydneyAustralia

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