American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
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In response to acute physiological stress, the sympathetic nervous system modifies neural outflow through increased firing frequency of lower-threshold axons, recruitment of latent subpopulations of higher-threshold axons, and/or acute modifications of synaptic delays. Aging and coronary artery disease (CAD) often modify efferent muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA). Therefore, we investigated whether CAD (n = 14; 61 ± 10 yr) and/or healthy aging without CAD (OH; n = 14; 59 ± 9 yr) modified these recruitment strategies that normally are observed in young healthy (YH; n = 14; 25 ± 3 yr) individuals. MSNA (microneurography) was measured at baseline and during maximal voluntary end-inspiratory (EI) and end-expiratory (EE) apneas. Action potential (AP) patterns were studied using a novel AP analysis technique. AP frequency increased in all groups during both EI- and EE-apnea (all P < 0.05). The mean AP content per integrated burst increased during EI- and EE-apnea in YH (EI: Δ6 ± 4 APs/burst; EE: Δ10 ± 6 APs/burst; both P < 0.01) and OH (EI: Δ3 ± 3 APs/burst; EE: Δ4 ± 5 APs/burst; both P < 0.01), but not in CAD (EI: Δ1 ± 3 APs/burst; EE: Δ2 ± 3 APs/burst; both P = NS). When APs were binned into "clusters" according to peak-to-peak amplitude, total clusters increased during EI- and EE-apnea in YH (EI: Δ5 ± 2; EE: Δ6 ± 4; both P < 0.01), during EI-apnea only in OH (EI: Δ1 ± 2; P < 0.01; EE: Δ1 ± 2; P = NS), and neither apnea in CAD (EI: Δ -2 ± 2; EE: Δ -1 ± 2; both P = NS). In all groups, the AP cluster size-latency profile was shifted downwards for every corresponding cluster during EI- and EE-apnea (all P < 0.01). As such, inherent dysregulation exists within the central features of apnea-related sympathetic outflow in aging and CAD.