This study was conducted to test whether abnormal spontaneous activity similar to that found after peripheral nerve trauma develops in diabetic nerve, and whether duration and/or severity of hyperglycemia affected ongoing activity. We maintained 32 diabetic BB Wistar rats on a euglycemic or hyperglycemic control regimen for 3–15 mo; 22 nondiabetic BB rats served as controls. All animals underwent acute saphenous nerve recordings. Whole nerve conduction velocities in 3- to 6-mo-old euglycemic diabetic rats were not different from controls, but 3- to 6-mo-old hyperglycemic diabetic conduction velocities were slower than in controls (P < 0.001) or euglycemic diabetic rats (P < 0.05). Compared with controls, 9- to 12-mo-old diabetic nerve conduction velocities were slower under both euglycemic (P < 0.029) and hyperglycemic (P < 0.04) regimens, but treatment groups did not differ. Combined 3- to 6-mo-old diabetic rats exhibited less resting sympathetic activity than controls under both euglycemic (P < 0.022) and hyperglycemic (P < 0.001) regimens. Sympathetic activity in 9- to 12-mo-old diabetic rats did not differ from controls. However, less sympathetic activity was found in older controls than in younger ones (P < 0.028). In conclusion: 1) saphenous nerve conduction velocity was slower in diabetic BB rats than in controls; 2) good glycemic control maintained normal conduction velocity in young adults, but the effect diminished with age; 3) resting sympathetic activity levels in young adult BB rats were lower than controls; and 4) sympathetic activity in old BB rats was diminished whether diabetes was present or not.

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