Sympathetic neural reactivity to mental stress differs in black and non-Hispanic white adults

Ida T. Fonkoue, Christopher E. Schwartz, Min Wang, Jason R. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Black adults have a higher risk of hypertension compared with non-Hispanic white (NHW) adults, but physiological mechanisms underlying this predisposition remain unclear. This study compared muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) responses to mental stress in a group of young black and NHW participants. We hypothesized that the sympathoexcitation associated with mental stress would be greater in black adults compared with NHW participants. Thirty-five male adults (19 black, 23 ± 1 yr; 16 NHW, 22 ± 1 yr) were examined during 5-min supine baseline and 5 min of mental stress (via mental arithmetic). Baseline mean arterial pressure (80 ± 2 vs. 82 ± 1 mmHg), heart rate (61 ± 4 vs. 61 ± 2 beats/min), MSNA (13 ± 1 vs. 15 ± 2 bursts/min), and sympathetic baroreflex sensitivity (-1.1 ± 0.4 vs. -1.5 ± 0.3 bursts·100 heart beats-1·mmHg-1) were not significantly different between NHW and black adults (P > 0.05), respectively. MSNA reactivity to mental stress was significantly higher in NHW compared with black adults (time × race, P > 0.006), with a particularly divergent responsiveness during the first minute of mental stress in NHW (δ4 ± 1 burst/min) and black (δ-2 ± 2 burst/min; P = 0.022) men. Blood pressure and heart rate reactivity to mental stress were similar between groups. In summary, black participants demonstrated a lower MSNA responsiveness to mental stress compared with NHW adults. These findings suggest that, despite a higher prevalence of hypertension, black subjects do not appear to have higher neural and cardiovascular responsiveness to mental stress compared with NHW.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-207
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported, in part, by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Grant HL-122919-01 and the Portage Health Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2018 American Physiological Society. All rights reserved.


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