Dissociation of sympathetic nerve activity in arm and leg muscle during mental stress.
Mental stress, which increases blood pressure and heart rate, increases forearm blood flow but does not change calf blood flow. The purpose of this study was to determine if mental stress increases muscle sympathetic nerve activity in the leg and causes a dissociation of muscle sympathetic nerve activity in the arm and the leg. We recorded heart rate, blood pressure, and efferent sympathetic nerve activity during mental stress (4 minutes of mental arithmetic) in 13 healthy men. Microelectrodes were inserted percutaneously into a fascicle of the peroneal nerve (leg) and radial nerve (arm) to measure sympathetic discharge to muscle. In Study 1, leg muscle sympathetic nerve activity was recorded in seven subjects. Mental stress significantly increased heart rate and blood pressure. Despite the increased blood pressure (which would be expected reflexly to inhibit sympathetic nerve activity), leg muscle sympathetic nerve activity (in total integrated activity, bursts per 100 heart beats or bursts per minute) increased significantly during stress. Further, whereas heart rate and blood pressure returned to normal during recovery, leg muscle sympathetic nerve activity remained elevated during recovery. In Study 2, simultaneous recordings were made of arm and leg muscle sympathetic nerve activity in six subjects. Mental stress increased heart rate and arterial pressure. Leg muscle sympathetic nerve activity again increased significantly during stress and remained elevated during recovery. In contrast, arm muscle sympathetic nerve activity did not change during stress. However, arm muscle sympathetic nerve activity increased significantly during recovery after stress. These studies indicate that a sympathoexcitatory influence of mental stress overrides or inhibits baroreceptor control of leg sympathetic nerve activity and stress causes a dissociation of arm and leg muscle sympathetic nerve activity with increased outflow to the leg but not to the arm. These observations may contribute to differences in blood flow to arm and leg during mental stress.
- Copyright © 1987 by American Heart Association