The effects of acupuncture-like stimulation of a hind limb on heart rate were examined in anesthetized rats. An acupuncture needle, having a diameter of either 160 or 340 μm, was inserted into the skin and underlying muscles at a depth of about 5 mm and twisted right and left twice every second for 1 min. Stimulation by a needle with a diameter of either 160 or 340 μm produced a decrease in heart rate. Severance of the femoral and sciatic nerves ipsilateral to the hind-limb stimulation completely abolished the bradycardiac response. Also, heart rate was significantly decreased by acupuncture-like stimulation of the hind-limb muscles alone, but was not significantly influenced by the stimulation of the hind-limb skin alone. The bradycardiac response induced by acupuncture-like stimulation was not influenced by bilateral severance of the vagal nerves at the cervical level, but was abolished by bilateral stellectomy. Acupuncture-like stimulation of the hind limb induced a decrease in the activity of the cardiac sympathetic efferent nerve as well as a decrease in heart rate. These results indicate that the decrease in heart rate induced by acupuncture-like stimulation of a hind limb is a reflex response. The afferent pathway is composed of hind-limb muscle afferents, and the efferent pathway is composed of cardiac sympathetic nerves.
2007 by The Physiological Society of Japan