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Biol Psychol. 2014 Sep;101:82-90. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2014.07.004. Epub 2014 Jul 16.

The effect of baroreceptor stimulation on pain perception depends on the elicitation of the reflex cardiovascular response: evidence of the interplay between the two branches of the baroreceptor system.

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Department of Psychology, University of Jaén, Spain. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, University of Jaén, Spain.
UMIT - University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology, Hall in Tirol, Austria.
Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, USA.


We examined the impact of baroreceptor stimulation on pain and cardiovascular responses in 39 healthy participants. Carotid baroreceptors were stimulated with external suction (-50 mmHg, stimulation) or pressure (+8 mmHg, control). Pain was induced by pressure to the nail of the left-index finger and quantified by a visual analog scale. Pain decreased heart rate (HR) and increased blood pressure (BP). Baroreceptor stimulation further decreased HR and reduced the BP increase. Pain experience failed to differ between baroreceptor stimulation conditions. However, significant results were obtained when trials were categorized according to the magnitude of the HR deceleration elicited by baroreceptor stimulation. In trials with strong baroreceptor-elicited HR deceleration pain intensity was lower than in trials both with inactive baroreceptor stimulation (pressure trials) or trials with small baroreceptor-elicited HR responses. Anti-nociceptive effects of baroreceptor stimulation depend on the activation of the reflex cardiovascular response. Central nervous inhibition due to baroreceptor stimulation only occurs if the peripheral cardiovascular response is engaged.


Baroreceptor reflex sensitivity; Blood pressure; Mechanical carotid baroreceptor stimulation; Pain

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