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Papers of the Week

2023 Jan 25

Pflugers Arch

The medial prefrontal cortex and the cardiac baroreflex activity: physiological and pathological implications.


Lagatta DC, Fassini A, Terzian AL, Corrêa FMA, Resstel LBM
Pflugers Arch. 2023 Jan 25.
PMID: 36695881.


The cardiac baroreflex is an autonomic neural mechanism involved in the modulation of the cardiovascular system. It influences the heart rate and peripheral vascular resistance to preserve arterial blood pressure within a narrow variation range. This mechanism is mainly controlled by medullary nuclei located in the brain stem. However, supramedullary areas, such as the ventral portion of medial prefrontal cortex (vMPFC), are also involved. Particularly, the glutamatergic NMDA/NO pathway in the vMPFC can facilitate baroreflex bradycardic and tachycardic responses. In addition, cannabinoid receptors in this same area can reduce or increase those cardiac responses, possibly through alteration in glutamate release. This vMPFC network has been associated to cardiovascular responses during stressful situations. Recent results showed an involvement of glutamatergic, nitrergic, and endocannabinoid systems in the blood pressure and heart rate increases in animals after aversive conditioning. Consequently, baroreflex could be modified by the vMPFC neurotransmission during stressful situations, allowing necessary cardiovascular adjustments. Remarkably, some mental, neurological and neurodegenerative disorders can involve damage in the vMPFC, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, Alzheimer's disease, and neuropathic pain. These pathologies are also associated with alterations in glutamate/NO release and endocannabinoid functions along with baroreflex impairment. Thus, the vMPFC seems to play a crucial role on the baroreflex control, either during pathological or physiological stress-related responses. The study of baroreflex mechanism under such pathological view may be helpful to establish causality mechanisms for the autonomic and cardiovascular imbalance found in those conditions. It can explain in the future the reasons of the high cardiovascular risk some neurological and neurodegenerative disease patients undergo. Additionally, the present work offers insights on the possible contributions of vMPFC dysfunction on baroreflex alterations, which, in turn, may raise questions in what extent other brain areas may play a role in autonomic deregulation under such pathological situations.