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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 May;112(10):1744-51. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01407.2011. Epub 2012 Mar 8.

Sex differences in hemodynamic and sympathetic neural firing patterns during orthostatic challenge in humans.

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  • 1Department of Kinesiology and Integrated Physiology, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan 49931, USA.


Recent evidence suggests that young men and women may have different strategies for regulating arterial blood pressure, and the purpose of the present study was to determine if sex differences exist in diastolic arterial pressure (DAP) and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) relations during simulated orthostatic stress. We hypothesized that young men would demonstrate stronger DAP-MSNA coherence and a greater percentage of "consecutive integrated bursts" during orthostatic stress. Fourteen men and 14 women (age 23 ± 1 yr) were examined at rest and during progressive lower body negative pressure (LBNP; -5 to -40 mmHg). Progressive LBNP did not alter mean arterial pressure (MAP) in either sex. Heart rate increased and stroke volume decreased to a greater extent during LBNP in women (interactions, P < 0.05). DAP-MSNA coherence was strong (i.e., r ≥ 0.5) at rest and increased throughout all LBNP stages in men. In contrast, DAP-MSNA coherence was lower in women, and responses to progressive LBNP were attenuated compared with men (time × sex, P = 0.029). Men demonstrated a higher percentage of consecutive bursts during all stages of LBNP (sex, P < 0.05), although the percentage of consecutive bursts increased similarly during progressive LBNP between sexes. In conclusion, men and women demonstrate different firing patterns of integrated MSNA during LBNP that appear to be related to differences in DAP oscillatory patterns. Men tend to have more consecutive bursts, which likely contribute to a stronger DAP-MSNA coherence. These findings may help explain why young women are more prone to orthostatic intolerance.

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