Background: Cardiac vagal preganglionic neurons (CVPN) are responsible for the tonic, reflex and respiratory modulation of heart rate (HR). Although CVPN receive GABAergic and glutamatergic inputs, likely involved in respiratory and reflex modulation of HR respectively, little else is known regarding the functions controlled by ionotropic inputs. Activation of g-protein coupled receptors (GPCR) alters these inputs, but the functional consequence is largely unknown. The present study aimed to delineate how ionotropic GABAergic, glycinergic and glutamatergic inputs contribute to the tonic and reflex control of HR and in particular determine which receptor subtypes were involved. Furthermore, we wished to establish how activation of the 5-HT1A GPCR affects tonic and reflex control of HR and what ionotropic interactions this might involve.Results: Microinjection of the GABAA antagonist picrotoxin into CVPN decreased HR but did not affect baroreflex bradycardia. The glycine antagonist strychnine did not alter HR or baroreflex bradycardia. Combined microinjection of the NMDA antagonist, MK801, and AMPA antagonist, CNQX, into CVPN evoked a small bradycardia and abolished baroreflex bradycardia. MK801 attenuated whereas CNQX abolished baroreceptor bradycardia. Control intravenous injections of the 5-HT1A agonist 8-OH-DPAT evoked a small bradycardia and potentiated baroreflex bradycardia. These effects were still observed following microinjection of picrotoxin but not strychnine into CVPN.Conclusions: We conclude that activation of GABAA receptors set the level of HR whereas AMPA to a greater extent than NMDA receptors elicit baroreflex changes in HR. Furthermore, activation of 5-HT1A receptors evokes bradycardia and enhances baroreflex changes in HR due to interactions with glycinergic neurons involving strychnine receptors. This study provides reference for future studies investigating how diseases alter neurochemical inputs to CVPN.