Vestibular influences on autonomic cardiovascular control in humans.

Biaggioni I, Costa F, Kaufmann H
J Vestib Res. 1998 8 (1): 35-41

PMID: 9416587

There is substantial evidence that anatomical connections exist between vestibular and autonomic nuclei. Animal studies have shown functional interactions between the vestibular and autonomic systems. The nature of these interactions, however, is complex and has not been fully defined. Vestibular stimulation has been consistently found to reduce blood pressure in animals. Given the potential interaction between vestibular and autonomic pathways this finding could be explained by a reduction in sympathetic activity. However, rather than sympathetic inhibition, vestibular stimulation has consistently been shown to increase sympathetic outflow in cardiac and splanchnic vascular beds in most experimental models. Several clinical observations suggest that a link between vestibular and autonomic systems may also exist in humans. However, direct evidence for vestibular/autonomic interactions in humans is sparse. Motion sickness has been found to induce forearm vasodilation and reduce baroreflex gain, and head down neck flexion induces transient forearm and calf vasoconstriction. On the other hand, studies using optokinetic stimulation have found either very small, variable, or inconsistent changes in heart rate and blood pressure, despite substantial symptoms of motion sickness. Furthermore, caloric stimulation severe enough to produce nystagmus, dizziness, and nausea had no effect on sympathetic nerve activity measured directly with microneurography. No effect was observed on heart rate, blood pressure, or plasma norepinephrine. Several factors may explain the apparent discordance of these results, but more research is needed before we can define the potential importance of vestibular input to cardiovascular regulation and orthostatic tolerance in humans.

MeSH Terms (9)

Animals Autonomic Nervous System Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena Cardiovascular System Humans Neural Pathways Posture Stress, Physiological Vestibule, Labyrinth

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