Bone and Joint Institute

Case Studies in Physiology: Sympathetic neural discharge patterns in a healthy young male during end-expiratory breath hold-induced sinus pause

Document Type


Publication Date



Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985)





First Page


Last Page


URL with Digital Object Identifier



This case study reports the efferent muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) discharge patterns during a sinus pause observed during a maximal end-expiratory apnea in a young healthy male (age = 26 yr). During a 15.3-s end-expiratory apnea following a bout of intermittent hypercapnic hypoxia, we observed a 5.2-s (R-R interval) sinus pause and integrated MSNA recording, demonstrating a square-wave discharge pattern atypical of sharp MSNA burst peaks entrained to cardiac cycles or during preventricular contractions. This abnormal MSNA discharge pattern was observed again during a follow-up experiment, where an end-expiratory apnea at baseline resulted in pronounced bradycardia (R-R intervals >2.5-s) but failed to reproduce the 5.2-s sinus pause. Action potential (AP) discharge patterns during MSNA bursts were detected using a continuous wavelet transform approach. AP discharge increased by 300% during the end-expiratory apnea with 5.2-s sinus pause compared with baseline and involved increased firing (i.e., rate-coding) of AP clusters (bins of AP with similar morphology) already present during baseline and pronounced recruitment of larger-amplitude AP clusters not present at baseline. Large-amplitude AP clusters continued to discharge during sinus pause. In summary, we show MSNA discharge during sinus pause and pronounced bradycardia during end-expiratory apnea, which demonstrates a square-wave discharge with recruitment of latent larger-amplitude AP clusters. The MSNA discharge was terminated before systole following sinus pause potentially through an inhibitory influence of inspiration, or cardiac mechanoreceptor feedback causing burst termination.NEW & NOTEWORTHY We characterize the occurrence of a square-wave discharge pattern of efferent muscle sympathetic nerve activity during a sinus pause in a young healthy male. This discharge pattern comprised large recruited action potential clusters undetected at baseline that continuously discharged during the sinus pause. Notably, this discharge pattern was still contained within a single cardiac cycle.

Find in your library