Neural signals convey information through two different modalities: intensity and discharge pattern. The intensity code is based on the number of action potentials per unit time, which is then easily translated into neurotransmitter release. This kind of information may be assessed simply by counting the number of spikes or bursts over a time unit. However, the discharge pattern is a further, efficient means of neural information transfer. Rhythmic patterns (i.e. oscillations) can support highly structured, temporal codes based on correlation and synchronization. It is therefore clear that applying frequency domain analysis to sympathetic activity recorded in animals and humans may provide additional information about the neural control of the circulation. Over the last century, data obtained by the analysis of sympathetic activity in experimental animals, and recently also in humans, have provided fundamental contributions to our understanding of the physiological mechanisms involved in the neural control of circulation, as well as how these are altered in cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular diseases. The aim of this paper is to address some aspects related to the recording, analysis and interpretation of sympathetic activity in rats and humans, with special emphasis on analysis in the frequency domain.
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