Central neural control of the cardiovascular system: Current perspectives

Roger A L Dampney*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Citations (Scopus)


This brief review, which is based on a lecture presented at the American Physiological Society Teaching Refresher Course on the Brain and Systems Control as part of the Experimental Biology meeting in 2015, aims to summarize current concepts of the principal mechanisms in the brain that regulate the autonomic outflow to the cardiovascular system. Such cardiovascular regulatory mechanisms do not operate in isolation but are closely coordinated with respiratory and other regulatory mechanisms to maintain homeostasis. The brain regulates the cardiovascular system by two general means: 1) feedforward regulation, often referred to as "central command," and 2) feedback or reflex regulation. In most situations (e.g., during exercise, defensive behavior, sleep, etc.), both of these general mechanisms contribute to overall cardiovascular homeostasis. The review first describes the mechanisms and central circuitry subserving the baroreceptor, chemoreceptor, and other reflexes that work together to regulate an appropriate level of blood pressure and blood oxygenation and then considers the brain mechanisms that defend the body against more complex environmental challenges, using dehydration and cold and heat stress as examples. The last section of the review considers the central mechanisms regulating cardiovascular function associated with different behaviors, with a specific focus on defensive behavior and exercise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-296
Number of pages14
JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Brain stem
  • Cardiovascular reflexes
  • Central command
  • Hypothalamus


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