Sympathetic neural reactivity to mental stress in offspring of hypertensive parents: 20 years revisited

Ida T. Fonkoue, Min Wang, Jason R. Carter

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17 Scopus citations


A number of recent studies have highlighted large interindividual variability of muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) responsiveness to mental stress in humans. The purpose of this study was to examine blood pressure (BP) and MSNA responsiveness to mental stress in a large and generalizable cohort of young adults with and without family history of hypertension (FHH). We hypothesized that subjects with FHH would demonstrate greater sympathoexcitation to mental stress than subjects without FHH. A total of 87 subjects (55 men and 32 women, 18–40 yr of age) from recently published (n = 45) and ongoing (n = 42) studies were examined; 57 subjects (19 with FHH and 38 without FHH) had complete MSNA recordings at baseline. Heart rate (HR), BP, and MSNA were recorded during 5 min of supine rest and 5 min of mental stress (mental arithmetic). Resting MSNA and HR were not statistically different between subjects with and without FHH (P > 0.05), whereas resting mean arterial pressure was higher in subjects with FHH (86 ± 2 vs. 80 ± 1 mmHg, P < 0.05). Mental stress increased MSNA in subjects with FHH (Δ5 ± 1 bursts/min), but not in subjects without FHH [Δ1 ± 1 burst/min, P < 0.01 (time × group)]. Mental stress increased mean arterial pressure (Δ12±1 and Δ10±1 mmHg, P < 0.001) and HR (Δ19±2 and Δ16± 2 beats/min, P < 0.001) in subjects with and without FHH, but these increases were not different between groups [P ≥ 0.05 (time × group)]. MSNA and BP reactivity to mental stress were not correlated in either group. In conclusion, FHH was associated with heightened MSNA reactivity to mental stress, despite a dissociation between MSNA and BP responsiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H426-H432
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 the American Physiological Society.


  • Blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular reactivity hypothesis
  • Family history of hypertension
  • Muscle sympathetic nerve activity


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