Vagal effects on atrioventricular (AV) nodal conduction are accentuated by increases in heart rate. To establish the mechanism of these rate-dependent negative dromotropic actions, we studied the properties governing AV nodal adaptation to changes in heart rate in chloralose-anesthetized dogs in the absence and presence of bilateral cervical vagal nerve stimulation (20 Hz, 0.2 msec). Stimulation protocols were applied to evaluate the contributions of changes in AV nodal recovery, facilitation, and fatigue independently of each other. Vagal stimulation slowed AV nodal recovery in a voltage-dependent way, increasing the time constant of recovery (tau r) from 80 +/- 7 to 194 +/- 16 msec (mean +/- SEM, p less than 0.01) at the highest voltage studied. The facilitating effect of a premature (A2) beat was manifested by a leftward shift of the recovery curve (A3H3 versus H2A3) of a subsequent A3 beat. The magnitude of shift depended on the A1A2 coupling interval and was reduced by vagal stimulation at all A1A2 intervals (maximum shift: control, 63 +/- 12 msec; vagus, 24 +/- 11 msec; p less than 0.01). When recovery and facilitation were kept constant, abrupt increases in AV nodal activation rate caused a slow (tau = 75 beats) increase...Continue Reading
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