Vestibular control of sympathetic activity. An otolith-sympathetic reflex in humans.

Kaufmann H, Biaggioni I, Voustianiouk A, Diedrich A, Costa F, Clarke R, Gizzi M, Raphan T, Cohen B
Exp Brain Res. 2002 143 (4): 463-9

PMID: 11914792 · DOI:10.1007/s00221-002-1002-3

It has been proposed that a vestibular reflex originating in the otolith organs and other body graviceptors modulates sympathetic activity during changes in posture with regard to gravity. To test this hypothesis, we selectively stimulated otolith and body graviceptors sinusoidally along different head axes in the coronal plane with off-vertical axis rotation (OVAR) and recorded sympathetic efferent activity in the peroneal nerve (muscle sympathetic nerve activity, MSNA), blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate. All parameters were entrained during OVAR at the frequency of rotation, with MSNA increasing in nose-up positions during forward linear acceleration and decreasing when nose-down. MSNA was correlated closely with blood pressure when subjects were within +/-90 degrees of nose-down positions with a delay of 1.4 s, the normal latency of baroreflex-driven changes in MSNA. Thus, in the nose-down position, MSNA was probably driven by baroreflex afferents. In contrast, when subjects were within +/-45 degrees of the nose-up position, i.e., when positive linear acceleration was maximal along the naso-ocipital axis, MSNA was closely related to gravitational acceleration at a latency of 0.4 s. This delay is too short for MSNA changes to be mediated by the baroreflex, but it is compatible with the delay of a response originating in the vestibular system. We postulate that a vestibulosympathetic reflex, probably originating mainly in the otolith organs, contributes to blood pressure maintenance during forward linear acceleration. Because of its short latency, this reflex may be one of the earliest mechanisms to sustain blood pressure upon standing.

MeSH Terms (12)

Acceleration Adolescent Adrenergic Fibers Adult Blood Pressure Female Humans Male Otolithic Membrane Posture Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular Vestibular Function Tests

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