Vagal determinants of exercise capacity

Asif Machhada, Stefan Trapp, Napthali Marina, Rob C. M. Stephens, Jonathan Whittle, Mark F Lythgoe, Sergey Kasparov, Gareth L. Ackland, Alexander Gourine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)
323 Downloads (Pure)


Indirect measures of cardiac vagal activity are strongly associated with exercise capacity, yet a causal relationship has not been established. Here we show that in rats, genetic silencing of the largest population of brainstem vagal preganglionic neurons residing in the brainstem’s dorsal vagal motor nucleus dramatically impairs exercise capacity, while optogenetic recruitment of the same neuronal population enhances cardiac contractility and prolongs exercise endurance. These data provide direct experimental evidence that arasympathetic
vagal drive generated by a defined CNS circuit determines the ability to exercise. Decreased activity and/or gradual loss of the identified neuronal cell group provides a neurophysiological basis for the progressive decline of exercise capacity with aging and in diverse disease states.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15097
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Early online date18 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2017

Bibliographical note

28 February 2017


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