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Physiol Behav. 2012 Jun 25;106(4):569-73. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.02.022. Epub 2012 Feb 25.

Delaying orthostatic syncope with mental challenge: a pilot study.

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Institute of Physiology, Medical University of Graz, Austria.


At orthostatic vasovagal syncope there appears to be a sudden decline of sympathetic activity. As mental challenge activates the sympathetic system, we hypothesized that doing mental arithmetic in volunteers driven to the end point of their cardiovascular stability may delay the onset of orthostatic syncope. We investigated this in healthy male subjects. Each subject underwent a head up tilt (HUT)+ graded lower body negative pressure (LBNP) up to presyncope session (control) to determine the orthostatic tolerance time, OTT (Time from HUT commencement to development of presyncopal symptoms/signs). Once the tolerance time was known, a randomized crossover protocol was used: either 1) Repeat HUT+LBNP to ensure reproducibility of repeated run or 2) HUT+LBNP run but with added mental challenge (2 min before the expected presyncope time). Test protocols were separated by 2 weeks. Our studies on five male test subjects indicate that mental challenge improves orthostatic tolerance significantly. Additional mental loading could be a useful countermeasure to alleviate the orthostatic responses of persons, particularly in those with histories of dizziness on standing up, or to alleviate hypotension that frequently occurs during hemodialysis or on return to earth from the spaceflight environment of microgravity.

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