Forebrain osmotic regulation of the sympathetic nervous system

Sean D. Stocker, Jeffrey L. Osborn, Samuel P. Carmichael

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


1. Accumulating evidence in both humans and animals indicates that acute increases in plasma osmolality elevate sympathetic nerve activity (SNA). In addition, plasma hyperosmolality (or hypernatraemia) can produce sustained increases in SNA and arterial blood pressure (ABP) through stimulation of forebrain osmoreceptors. 2. Although an abundance of information exists regarding the osmoregulatory circuits for thirst and secretion of antidiuretic hormone, much less is known about those pathways and synaptic mechanisms linking osmotic perturbations and SNA. To date, the available evidence suggests that osmosensitive sites within the forebrain lamina terminalis, such as the organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis, are key elements that link plasma hypertonicity to elevated SNA. 3. The major efferent target of osmosensitive regions in the forebrain lamina terminalis is the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVH). Evidence from a number of studies indicates that the PVH contributes to both acute and chronic osmotically driven increases in SNA. In turn, PVH neurons increase SNA through a direct vasopressinergic spinal pathway and/or a glutamatergic pathway to bulbospinal sympathetic neurons of the rostral ventrolateral medulla. 4. Future studies are needed to: (i) define the contribution of various osmosensitive regions of the forebrain lamina terminalis to acute and chronic osmotically driven increases in SNA; (ii) identify the cellular mechanisms and neural circuitry linking plasma osmolality and SNA; and (iii) define whether such mechanisms contribute to elevated SNA in salt-sensitive hypertension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-700
Number of pages6
JournalClinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - May 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology (medical)


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