Differential control of sympathetic outflow

Shaun F. Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

299 Scopus citations


With advances in experimental techniques, the early views of the sympathetic nervous system as a monolithic effector activated globally in situations requiring a rapid and aggressive response to life-threatening danger have been eclipsed by an organizational model featuring an extensive array of functionally specific output channels that can be simultaneously activated or inhibited in combinations that result in the patterns of autonomic activity supporting behavior and mediating homeostatic reflexes. With this perspective, the defense response is but one of the many activational states of the central autonomic network. This review summarizes evidence for the existence of tissue-specific sympathetic output pathways, which are likely to include distinct populations of premotor neurons whose target specificity could be assessed using the functional fingerprints developed from characterizations of postganglionic efferents to known targets. The differential responses in sympathetic outflows to stimulation of reflex inputs suggest that the circuits regulating the activity of sympathetic premotor neurons must have parallel access to groups of premotor neurons controlling different functions but that these connections vary in their ability to influence different sympathetic outputs. Understanding the structural and physiological substrates antecedent to premotor neurons that mediate the differential control of sympathetic outflows, including those to noncardiovascular targets, represents a challenge to our current technical and analytic approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R683-R698
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number3 50-3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Adrenal medulla
  • Arterial pressure
  • Baroreceptor reflex
  • Brown adipose tissue
  • Chemoreceptor reflex
  • Cutaneous circulation
  • Periaqueductal gray
  • Renal sympathetic nerve
  • Thermoregulation
  • Vasoconstriction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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