The baroreceptor neurons serve as the primary transducers of blood pressure for the autonomic nervous system and are thus critical in enabling the body to respond effectively to changes in blood pressure. These neurons can be separated into two types (A and C) based on the myelination of their axons and their distinct firing patterns elicited in response to specific pressure stimuli. This study has developed a comprehensive model of the afferent baroreceptor discharge built on physiological knowledge of arterial wall mechanics, firing rate responses to controlled pressure stimuli, and ion channel dynamics within the baroreceptor neurons. With this model, we were able to predict firing rates observed in previously published experiments in both A- and C-type neurons. These results were obtained by adjusting model parameters determining the maximal ion-channel conductances. The observed variation in the model parameters are hypothesized to correspond to physiological differences between A- and C-type neurons. In agreement with published experimental observations, our simulations suggest that a twofold lower potassium conductance in C-type neurons is responsible for the observed sustained basal firing, whereas a tenfold higher mechanosensitive conductance is responsible for the greater firing rate observed in A-type neurons. A better understanding of the difference between the two neuron types can potentially be used to gain more insight into the underlying pathophysiology facilitating development of targeted interventions improving baroreflex function in diseased individuals, e.g. in patients with autonomic failure, a syndrome that is difficult to diagnose in terms of its pathophysiology.
Sturdy, J., Ottesen, J. T., & Olufsen, M. (2017). Modeling the differentiation of A- and C-type baroreceptor firing patterns. Journal of Computational Neuroscience, 42(1), 11-30. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10827-016-0624-6