Effect of generalised sympathetic activation by cold pressor test on cerebral haemodynamics in healthy humans

Silvestro Roatta, Giuseppe Micieli, Daniele Bosone, Gianni Losano, Roberto Bini, Anna Cavallini, Magda Passatore

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There is no general agreement regarding several aspects of the role of the sympathetic system on cerebral haemodynamics such as extent of effectiveness, operational range and site of action. This study was planned to identify the effect of a generalised sympathetic activation on the cerebral haemodynamics in healthy humans before it is masked by secondary corrections, metabolic or myogenic in nature. A total of 35 healthy volunteers aged 20-35 underwent a 5 min lasting cold pressor test (CPT) performed on their left hand. The cerebral blood flow (CBF) velocity in the middle cerebral arteries and arterial blood pressure were recorded with transcranial Doppler sonography and with a non-invasive finger-cuff method, respectively. The ratio of arterial blood pressure to mean blood velocity (ABP/V(m)) and Pulsatility Index (PI) were calculated throughout each trial. CPT induced an increase in mean ABP (range 2-54 mmHg depending on the subject) and only a slight, though significant, increase in blood velocity in the middle cerebral artery (+2.4 and +4.4% on ipsi- and contralateral side, respectively). During CPT, the ratio ABP/V(m) increased and PI decreased in all subjects on both sides. These changes began simultaneously with the increase in blood pressure. The increase in ABP/V(m) ratio is attributed to an increase in the cerebrovascular resistance, while the concomitant reduction in PI is interpreted as due to the reduction in the compliance of the middle cerebral artery. The results suggest that generalised increases in the sympathetic discharge, causing increases in ABP, can prevent concomitant increases in CBF by acting on both small resistance and large compliant vessels. This effect is also present when a slight increase in blood pressure occurs, which suggests a moderate increase in the sympathetic discharge, i.e. when ABP remains far below the upper limit of CBF autoregulation. Copyright (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-166
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Autonomic Nervous System
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 1998


  • Cerebral circulation
  • Cold pressor test
  • Sympathetic system
  • Transcranial Doppler

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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