Vasovagal Syncope: Hypothesis Focusing on Its Being a Clinical Feature Unique to Humans

Jean Jacques Blanc, David G. Benditt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Vasovagal Syncope Humans live primarily in the upright position; as a result, there is a constant struggle between gravity and needed supply of blood flow to the brain. In certain circumstances brain blood supply may become temporarily insufficient, resulting in syncope. Among the numerous causes of syncope in humans, vasovagal syncope (VVS) is by far the most common. However, despite intensive research, many aspects of the pathophysiology of VVS remain unknown; among these, one of the least well understood is the basis for why VVS is restricted, among vertebrates, to Homo sapiens. In this manuscript we review proposals that have been offered in an attempt to address the issue of the origin of VVS and, although highly speculative, we suggest a new hypothesis (the "brain theory") to try to address the question of why humans, to the exclusion of other species, remain susceptible to VVS. This theory suggests that VVS evolved to offer protection to the brain's functional integrity under certain conditions of severe threat. Although seemingly a disadvantageous evolutionary adaptation, the faint causes the body to take on a gravitationally neutral position, and thereby provides a better chance of restoring brain blood supply and preserving long-term brain function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-629
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of cardiovascular electrophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • autonomic nervous system
  • brain
  • evolution
  • syncope
  • vasovagal syncope


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