Spectral characteristics of skin sympathetic nerve activity in heat-stressed humans

Jian Cui, Mithra Sathishkumar, Thad E. Wilson, Manabu Shibasaki, Scott L. Davis, Craig G. Crandall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA) exhibits low- and high-frequency spectral components in normothermic subjects. However, spectral characteristics of SSNA in heat-stressed subjects are unknown. Because the main components of the integrated SSNA during heat stress (sudomotor/vasodilator activities) are different from those during normothermia and cooling (vasoconstrictor activity), we hypothesize that spectral characteristics of SSNA in heat-stressed subjects will be different from those in subjects subjected to normothermia or cooling. In 17 healthy subjects, SSNA, electrocardiogram, arterial blood pressure (via Finapres), respiratory activity, and skin blood flow were recorded during normothermia and heat stress. In 7 of the 17 subjects, these variables were also recorded during cooling. Spectral characteristics of integrated SSNA, R-R interval, beat-by-beat mean blood pressure, skin blood flow variability, and respiratory excursions were assessed. Heat stress and cooling significantly increased total SSNA. SSNA spectral power in the low-frequency (0.03-0.15 Hz), high-frequency (0.15-0.45 Hz), and very-high-frequency (0.45-2.5 Hz) regions was significantly elevated by heat stress and cooling. Interestingly, heat stress caused a greater relative increase of SSNA spectral power within the 0.45- to 2.5-Hz region than in the other spectral ranges; cooling did not show this effect. Differences in the SSNA spectral distribution between normothermia/cooling and heat stress may reflect different characteristics of central modulation of vasoconstrictor and sudomotor/vasodilator activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H1601-H1609
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Autonomic
  • Sympathetic nervous system
  • Thermoregulation
  • Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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