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Exp Physiol. 2006 Jan;91(1):51-8. Epub 2005 Oct 20.

New insights into central cardiovascular control during exercise in humans: a central command update.

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Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion & Recreation Univeristy of North Texas, Denton, TX 76203-1337, USA.


The autonomic adjustments to exercise are mediated by central signals from the higher brain (central command) and by a peripheral reflex arising from working skeletal muscle (exercise pressor reflex), with further modulation provided by the arterial baroreflex. Although it is clear that central command, the exercise pressor reflex and the arterial baroreflex are all requisite for eliciting appropriate cardiovascular adjustments to exercise, this review will be limited primarily to discussion of central command. Central modulation of the cardiovascular system via descending signals from higher brain centres has been well recognized for over a century, yet the specific regions of the human brain involved in this exercise-related response have remained speculative. Brain mapping studies during exercise as well as non-exercise conditions have provided information towards establishing the cerebral cortical structures in the human brain specifically involved in cardiovascular control. The purpose of this review is to provide an update of current concepts on central command in humans, with a particular emphasis on the regions of the brain identified to alter autonomic outflow and result in cardiovascular adjustments.

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