Recording sympathetic nerve activity chronically in rats: Surgery techniques, assessment of nerve activity, and quantification

Sean D. Stocker, Martin S. Muntzel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The sympathetic nervous system plays a pivotal role in homeostasis through its direct innervation and functional impact on a variety of end organs. In rats, a number of methods are available to assess sympathetic nervous system function. Traditionally, direct recording of sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) has been restricted to acute, anesthetized preparations or conscious animals within a few days after electrode implantation. However, these approaches provide short-term data in studies designed to investigate changes in SNA during chronic disease states. Over the last several years, chronic SNA recording has been pioneered in rabbits and more recently in rats. The purpose of this article is to provide insights and a "how to" guide for chronic SNA recordings in rats based on experiences from two independent laboratories. We will present common methodologies used to chronically record SNA, characteristics and methods to distinguish sympathetic bursts versus electrical artifacts (and provide corresponding audio clips when available), and provide suggestions for analysis and presentation of data. In many instances, these same guidelines are applicable to acute SNA recordings. Using the surgical approaches described herein, both laboratories have been able to chronically record SNA in >50% of rats for a duration >3 wk. The ability to record SNA over the time course of several weeks will, undoubtedly, greatly impact the field of autonomic and cardiovascular physiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1407-H1416
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 15 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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