Characterization of the relationship between spontaneous locomotor activity and cardiovascular parameters in conscious freely moving rats

Dmitry Zaretsky, Maria V. Zaretskaia, Joseph A. DiMicco

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In freely behaving rats, variations in heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) are coupled closely with changes in locomotor activity (Act). We have attempted to characterize this relationship mathematically. In 10- and 16-week-old rats, HR, BP and Act were recorded telemetrically every minute for 2days under 12h:12h light-dark cycling. After examining data for individual rats, we found that the relationship between Act and HR could be approximated by the negative exponential function HR(Act)=HRmax-(HRmax-HRmin)*exp(-Act/Acte), where HRmax, HRmin, and Acte are constants. These constants were calculated separately for light and dark periods by non-linear curve fitting. HR corresponding to maximal locomotion was similar during the light and dark phases, while HR at rest during the dark phase was higher than during the light phase. The range of HR variability associated with Act during the dark phase was similar in young and older animals, but minimal HR was significantly lower in older rats. The relationship between Act and BP was approximated with a similar function. We have found no differences between BP at rest and at maximal locomotion between light and dark and between 10-week and 16-week-old rats. Our results indicate that in rats, cardiovascular parameters are coupled to locomotion to a high degree; however both the HR and the BP reach maximal values when locomotor activity is relatively low. We also found that the phase of daily cycle affects HR in conscious rats independent of locomotor activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-67
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016



  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Locomotor activity
  • Locomotor-cardiovascular coupling
  • Rat
  • Telemetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Philosophy

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