Effect of thermal stress on the vestibulosympathetic reflexes in humans

Thad E. Wilson, Chester A. Ray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Both heat stress and vestibular activation alter autonomic responses; however, the interaction of these two sympathetic activators is unknown. To determine the effect of heat stress on the vestibulosympathetic reflex, eight subjects performed static head-down rotation (HDR) during normothermia and whole body heating. Muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA; peroneal microneurography), mean arterial blood pressure (MAP), heart rate (HR), and internal temperature were measured during the experimental trials. HDR during normothermia caused a significant increase in MSNA (Δ5 ± 1 bursts/min; Δ53 ± 14 arbitrary units/min), whereas no change was observed in MAP, HR, or internal temperature. Whole body heating significantly increased internal temperature (Δ0.9 ± 0.1°C), MSNA (Δ10 ± 3 bursts/min; Δ152 ± 44 arbitrary units/min), and HR (Δ25 ± 6 beats/min), but it did not alter MAP. HDR during whole body heating increased MSNA (Δ16 + 4 bursts/min; Δ233 ± 90 arbitrary units/min from normothermic baseline), which was not significantly different from the algebraic sum of HDR during normothermia and whole body heating (Δ15 ± 4 bursts/min; Δ205 ± 55 arbitrary units/min). These data suggest that heat stress does not modify the vestibulosympathetic reflex and that both the vestibulosympathetic and thermal reflexes are robust, independent sympathetic nervous system activators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1367-1370
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • Heat stress
  • Microneurography
  • Muscle sympathetic nerve activity
  • Orthostasis
  • Otolith organs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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