Effects of baroreceptor stimulation on sensorimotor control of the hand

Paul Pauli, Joachim Hermsdörfer, Christian Marquardt, Niels Birbaumer, Harald Rau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Finger movements are presumed to be controlled by somatosensory and motor areas of neocortex via the corticospinal tract. Since baroreceptor activation appears to reduce central nervous system activity, an effect on sensorimotor control during precise manual manipulations is expected. To test this hypothesis, motor responses to slow and fast perturbations during grasping of a small object (precision grip) were examined. Baroreceptor activation was manipulated with the phase-related external suction (PRES) technique, which allows the application of baroreceptor stimulation and control conditions in a well-controlled and indiscernible way. Motor reactions following slow perturbations were influenced in the expected way in good-performance subjects. The time to stop slow perturbations was longer and the electromyographic (EMG) activity of the small thumb muscles was lower during baroreceptor stimulation than in the control condition. These effects did not appear in the fast-perturbation task. Fast perturbations were followed by EMG activity onset after about 50 msec, which indicates that a prominent part of the EMG activity must be attributed to a more automatic motor response. EMG activity following slow perturbations began after about 90 msec, and it may be assumed that these motor reactions are primarily under voluntary control. The fact that we found effects of baroreceptor stimulation in slow but not in fast perturbations could have been caused by at least partially different pathways utilized for automatic versus voluntary motor responses, which seem to be differentially vulnerable to baroreceptor activation. An electrocortical sign that precedes voluntary movements is the Bereitschaftspotential, or readiness potential. Since this potential is a slow brain potential, and baroreceptor activation is known to reduce slow brain potentials, it is plausible that baroreceptor activation primarily affects motor responses following slow but not fast perturbations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-50
Number of pages10
JournalSomatosensory & Motor Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1993


  • Baroreceptors
  • Passive finger displacement
  • Precision grip
  • Sensorimotor control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Neuroscience(all)


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