While it is known that anxiety or emotional arousal affects skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA), the galvanic skin response (GSR) is the most widely used parameter to infer increases in SSNA during stress or emotional studies. We recently showed that SSNA provides a more sensitive measure of emotional state than effector-organ responses. The aim of the present study was to assess whether there are gender differences in the responses of SSNA and other physiological parameters such as blood pressure, heart rate, skin blood flow and sweat release, while subjects viewed neutral or emotionally-charged images from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). Changes in SSNA were assessed using microneurography in 20 subjects (10 male and 10 female). Blocks of positively-charged (erotica) or negatively-charge images (mutilation) were presented in a quasi-random fashion, following a block of neutral images, with each block containing 15 images and lasting 2 min. Images of both erotica and mutilation caused significant increases in SSNA, with increases being greater for males viewing erotica and greater for females viewing mutilation. The increases in SSNA were often coupled with sweat release and cutaneous vasoconstriction; however, these markers were not significantly different than those produced by viewing neutral images and were not always consistent with the SSNA increases. We conclude that SSNA increases with both positively-charged and negatively-charged emotional images, yet sex differences are present.
skin sympathetic nerve activity; emotional processing; sex differences; sweat release; microneurography
Mental stress (MS) is a known trigger of myocardial infarction and sudden death. By activating the sympathetic nervous system, MS may have deleterious effect on the cardiovascular system but this process is not completely understood. The primary aim of this study was to quantify the effect of MS on skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA). The secondary aim was to determine the reproducibility of SSNA to MS within a given day and ∼1 week later. Ten subjects (26 ± 1 year) performed two bouts of mental arithmetic lasting 3 min. The bouts were separated by 45 min. One week later the subjects returned to repeat MS. All experiments were conducted in the supine posture during the morning hours. To maintain neutral skin temperature, each subject wore a custom suit (34–35°C). Skin blood flow and sweat rate were measured on the dorsal foot. MS elicited a marked increase in SSNA within the first 10 sec (184 ± 42%; P < 0.01) in all subjects, which was less during the remaining period of MS, but remained elevated (87 ± 20; P < 0.01). The pattern of responses to MS was unchanged during the second bout (10 sec, 247 ± 55%; 3 min average, 133 ± 29%) and during the retest 1 week later (10 sec, 196 ± 55%; 3 min average, 117 ± 36%). MS did not significantly affect cutaneous vascular conductance or sweat rate during any trial. In summary, MS elicits robust and reproducible increases in SSNA in humans, which may be followed over time to observe alterations in the regulation of the autonomic nervous system.
Blood pressure; heart rate; psychosocial stress; reproducibility of results
Mental stress (MS) is a known trigger of myocardial infarction and sudden death. By activating the sympathetic nervous system, MS may have deleterious effect on the cardiovascular system but this process is not completely understood. The primary aim of this study was to quantify the effect of MS on skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA). The secondary aim was to determine the reproducibility of SSNA to MS within a given day and ~1 week later. Ten subjects (26±1 yr.) performed two bouts of mental arithmetic lasting 3 min. The bouts were separated by 45 min. One week later the subjects returned to repeat MS. All experiments were conducted in the supine posture during the morning hours. To maintain neutral skin temperature, each subject wore a custom suit (34-35°C). Skin blood flow and sweat rate were measured on the dorsal foot. MS elicited a marked increase in SSNA within the first 10 s (184±42%; P<0.01) in all subjects, which was less during the remaining period of MS but remained elevated (87±20; P<0.01). The pattern of responses to MS was unchanged during the second bout (10 s, 247±55%; 3 min avg., 133±29%) and during the retest 1 week later (10 s, 196±55%; 3 min avg., 117±36%). MS did not significantly affect cutaneous vascular conductance or sweat rate during any trial. In summary, MS elicits robust and reproducible increases in SSNA in humans which may be followed over time to observe alterations in the regulation of the autonomic nervous system.
blood pressure; heart rate; psychosocial stress; reproducibility of results
In humans, sympathetic vasoconstrictor nerves in the skin contribute to resting vascular tone and mediate reflex vasoconstrictor responses to body cooling. Although it is well recognized that type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is associated with peripheral neurovascular changes, it is unclear to what extent the thermal responsiveness of the cutaneous vasoconstrictor system is altered in individuals with relatively uncomplicated T2DM. We tested the hypothesis that skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA) is decreased at baseline and during body cooling in individuals with T2DM compared to healthy controls (C) of similar age and body size. We measured SSNA (microneurography) and skin blood flow (laser-Doppler flowmetry) in the innervated area in 8 T2DM and 12 C subjects at baseline and during 3–4 minutes of rapid whole body cooling via water-perfused suit. SSNA (total integrated activity) increased, and cutaneous vascular conductance decreased in both groups during body cooling (P < 0.01 for both). However, SSNA was not different between groups during either baseline or body cooling conditions (P = NS). The deltas in SSNA between baseline and body cooling were similar between groups: T2DM: 55 ± 27 and C: 57 ± 12 units (P = NS). We conclude that reflex cutaneous sympathetic and vascular responses to rapid whole body cooling are preserved in relatively healthy individuals with T2DM.
skin sympathetic nerve activity; thermoregulation; skin blood flow; vasoconstriction
Previous studies show that the rise in skin blood flow and cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC) during heat stress is substantially attenuated in chronic heart failure (CHF) patients. The mechanism(s) responsible for this finding is not clear. In particular, little is known regarding the responses of skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA) that control the skin blood flow during heat stress in CHF patients. We examined the effects of a modest heat stress to test the hypothesis that SSNA responses could be attenuated in CHF.
Methods and Results
We assessed SSNA (microneurography) from the peroneal nerve and skin blood flow (forearm laser Doppler) in 9 patients with stable class II-III CHF and in matched healthy subjects during passive whole body heating with a water perfused suit. Whole body heating induced similar increases in internal temperature (~0.6 °C) in both groups. Whole body heat stress evoked similar SSNA activation in CHF patients (Δ891±110 units/min) and the control subjects (Δ787±84 units/min, P=0.66), while the elevation in forearm CVC in patients with CHF was significantly lower than that in healthy control subjects (Δ131±29 vs. Δ623±131%, P=0.001).
The present data show that SSNA activation during a modest whole body heat stress is not attenuated in CHF. Thus, the attenuated skin vasodilator response in CHF patients is not due to a reduction in total activity of sympathetic outflow to skin.
autonomic; regional blood flow; vasodilation; heart failure
To assess autonomic dysfunction, skin sympathetic nerve
activity (SSNA) of four patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome was microneurographically studied in the acute and remission phase. Autonomic symptoms such as sinus tachycardia, palmar hyperhidrosis, hypertension, and orthostatic hypotension were present in the acute
phase, but all subsided during remission. Basal resting SSNA and the
responses to various physical and mental stimuli were all increased in
the acute phase and returned almost to normal during remission. Rate of
response in sweat rate and blood flow against SSNA were kept
proportionally constant during both the acute and remission phases.
These findings suggest that some autonomic nerve symptoms of
Guillain-Barré syndrome, particularly during the acute phase,
are due to increased SSNA.
While leptin is known to increase sympathetic nerve activity (SNA), we
tested the hypothesis that leptin also enhances baroreflex control of SNA and
HR. Using α-chloralose anesthetized male rats, mean
arterial pressure (MAP), HR, lumbar SNA (LSNA), splanchnic SNA (SSNA), and renal
SNA (RSNA) were recorded before and for 2 hr after lateral cerebroventricular
(LV) leptin or aCSF administration. Baroreflex function was assessed using a
four parameter sigmoidal fit of HR and SNA responses to slow ramp (3-5 min)
changes in MAP, induced by iv infusion of nitroprusside and phenylephrine.
Leptin (3 μg) increased (P<0.05) basal LSNA, SSNA, RSNA, HR and
MAP, and the LSNA, SSNA, RSNA, and HR baroreflex maxima. Leptin also increased
gain of baroreflex control of LSNA and RSNA, but not of SSNA or HR. The
elevations in HR were eliminated by pretreatment with methscopalamine, to block
parasympathetic nerve activity; however, after cardiac sympathetic blockade with
atenolol, leptin still increased basal HR and MAP and the HR baroreflex maximum
and minimum. Leptin (1.5 μg) also increased LSNA and enhanced LSNA
baroreflex gain and maximum, but did not alter MAP, HR, or the HR baroreflex. LV
aCSF had no effects. Finally, to test if leptin acts in the brainstem, leptin (3
μg) was infused into the 4th ventricle; however, no
significant changes were observed. In conclusion, leptin acts in the forebrain
to differentially influence baroreflex control of LSNA, RSNA, SSNA and HR, with
the latter action mediated via suppression of parasympathetic nerve
male rats; RSNA; LSNA; SSNA; methscopolamine; parasympathetic
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated with risk for chronic pain, but the mechanisms contributing to the MDD and pain relationship are unclear. To examine whether disrupted emotional modulation of pain might contribute, this study assessed emotional processing and emotional modulation of pain in healthy controls and unmedicated persons with MDD (14 MDD, 14 controls). Emotionally-charged pictures (erotica, neutral, mutilation) were presented in four blocks. Two blocks assessed physiological-emotional reactions (pleasure/arousal ratings, corrugator EMG, startle modulation, skin conductance) in the absence of pain and two blocks assessed emotional modulation of pain and the nociceptive flexion reflex (NFR, a physiological measure of spinal nociception) evoked by suprathreshold electric stimulations. Results indicated pictures generally evoked the intended emotional responses; erotic pictures elicited pleasure, subjective arousal, and smaller startle magnitudes, whereas mutilation pictures elicited displeasure, corrugator EMG activation, and subjective/physiological arousal. However, emotional processing was partially disrupted in MDD as evidenced by a blunted pleasure response to erotica and a failure to modulate startle according to a valence linear trend. Furthermore, emotional modulation of pain was observed in controls, but not MDD, even though there were no group differences in NFR threshold or emotional modulation of NFR. Together, these results suggest supraspinal processes associated with emotion processing and emotional modulation of pain may be disrupted in MDD, but brain-to-spinal cord processes that modulate spinal nociception are intact. Thus, emotional modulation of pain deficits may be a phenotypic marker for future pain risk in MDD.
major depressive disorder; pain modulation; RIII reflex; affective processing; psychophysiology; supraspinal processing
A recent paper by Henderson et al. (2012) claimed that skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA) can not be retrieved from skin conductance responses (SCR). Here, I argue that this claim is not supported by the literature, and comment on contemporary approaches of estimating SSNA from SCR using biophysical models.
•Sympathetic arousal can be estimated from skin conductance responses (SCR).•Such estimation relies on estimation of skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA).•Physiological work has established a linear relationship of SCR and SSNA amplitudes.
Skin conductance responses; Skin sympathetic nerve activity; Electrodermal activity; Galvanic skin response; GSR; EDA; SCR; SSNA; Sympathetic arousal; Mathematical model; Biophysical model
Fibromyalgia (FM) is characterized by widespread pain, as well as affective disturbance (e.g., depression). Given that emotional processes are known to modulate pain, a disruption of emotion and emotional modulation of pain and nociception may contribute to FM. The present study used a well-validated affective picture-viewing paradigm to study emotional processing and emotional modulation of pain and spinal nociception. Participants were 18 individuals with FM, 18 individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and 19 healthy pain-free controls (HC). Mutilation, neutral, and erotic pictures were presented in four blocks; two blocks assessed only physiological-emotional reactions (i.e., pleasure/arousal ratings, corrugator EMG, startle modulation, skin conductance) in the absence of pain and two blocks assessed emotional reactivity and emotional modulation of pain and the nociceptive flexion reflex (NFR, a physiological measure of spinal nociception) evoked by suprathreshold electric stimulations over the sural nerve. In general, mutilation pictures elicited displeasure, corrugator activity, subjective arousal, and sympathetic activation, whereas erotic pictures elicited pleasure, subjective arousal, and sympathetic activation. However, FM was associated with deficits in appetitive activation (e.g., reduced pleasure/arousal to erotica). Moreover, emotional modulation of pain was observed in HC and RA, but not FM, even though all three groups evidenced modulation of NFR. Additionally, NFR thresholds were not lower in the FM group, indicating a lack of spinal sensitization. Together, these results suggest that FM is associated with a disruption of supraspinal processes associated with positive affect and emotional modulation of pain, but not brain-to-spinal cord circuitry that modulates spinal nociceptive processes.
emotion; affect; electric stimulation; descending pain modulation; chronic pain; startle reflex
Metabolic states of neoplastic cells are increasingly being relied upon for diagnostic and prognostic assessment of neoplastic conditions. The nucleic acid distribution pattern of cells in general, in terms of degree of condensation of the nuclear chromatin and overall spread of the nucleic acid within the nuclear and cytoplasmic compartments, can reflect the metabolic state of the cell. This simple but logical concept appears not be put into consideration to date as numerous attempts are being made towards formulating reliable biomarkers for rapid diagnosis, prognosis and subsequent therapeutic interventions for neoplastic conditions. We comparatively evaluated nucleic acid distribution patterns of normal lymphocytes and neoplastic cells of lymphocytic lineage, employing light and fluorescence microscopy procedures, as well as digital imaging analytical methods.
The results demonstrate distinctiveness in the pattern of nucleic acid distribution for the normal lymphocytes and three lymphocytic neoplastic cell-types of canine lymphocytic leukemia that are categorized as small, intermediate and large neoplastic lymphocytes. Variably-shaped cytoplasmic processes laden with single-stranded nucleic acids (SSNA) were observed for the small and intermediate-sized neoplastic lymphocytes, compared with large neoplastic lymphocytes and the normal lymphocytes; the latter two categories of cells being virtually devoid of similar processes. Prominent cytoplasmic and nuclear clumps of SSNA, indicative of a higher rate of metabolic activity, were also observed within the neoplastic cells compared with fewer and narrower SSNA of the normal cells.
The comparative relative increases of SSNA in cytoplasmic processes and other cellular areas of small and intermediate-sized neoplastic lymphocytes is reflective of greater metabolic activity in neoplastic cells in general compared with their normal cellular counterparts.
A secreted nuclease, SsnA, was identified in the virulent Streptococcus suis isolate SX332 and subsequently in each of the type strains of capsular serotypes 1 through 9. Screening of 258 porcine clinical isolates from surface (nasal mucosa or palatine tonsil) or internal (joint, brain or other internal organ) locations revealed a significant relationship (P < 0.001) between expression of nuclease and isolation from an internal site. A 3,126-bp gene, ssnA, was identified from a phenotypically nuclease-negative pGh9:ISS1 insertion mutant, and analysis of the predicted SsnA sequence revealed a 35-amino-acid (aa) secretion signal sequence, a 22-aa DNA-binding domain, and a typical gram-positive cell wall sorting motif. A requirement of Ca2+ and Mg2+ for SsnA activity was determined, and the substrate specificity was found to be for single- and double-stranded linear DNA. Reverse transcription-PCR experiments revealed that ssnA is expressed throughout all stages of S. suis growth, and Western blots with porcine anti-S. suis immune sera against a recombinant, truncated SsnA derivative (rSsnAΔ) confirmed that SsnA is expressed in vivo. Furthermore, anti-rSsnAΔ antibodies were sufficient to neutralize SsnA activity. Analyses of subcellular fractions of SX332 and derived mutants, on DNA-containing polyacrylamide gels and by Western blotting, suggest that SsnA is cell wall located.
Menopausal hot flashes can seriously disrupt the lives of symptomatic women. The physiological mechanisms of the hot flash efferent responses, particularly in the cutaneous circulation, are not completely understood. The aim of this study was to examine the mechanisms of increases in skin blood flow during the postmenopausal hot flash in symptomatic women.
Healthy postmenopausal women rested in a temperature controlled laboratory while responses prior to and during hot flashes were recorded for three unique protocols. Protocols 1 and 2: Women were locally pretreated with an intradermal injection of botulinum toxin A (BTX; blocks the release of neurotransmitters from sympathetic cholinergic nerves) in the forearm (protocol 1) and in the glabellar region (protocol 2). Protocol 3: Skin sympathetic nerve activity from the peroneal nerve was recorded, along with skin blood flow and sweating within the region innervated by that neural signal. Skin blood flow was indexed using laser-Doppler flowmetry at BTX-treated and adjacent untreated control sites. The onset of a hot flash was objectively identified as a transient and pronounced elevation of sternal sweat rate.
The elevation in forearm (protocol 1) and glabellar skin blood flow (protocol 2) during hot flashes were attenuated at BTX sites relative to adjacent untreated sites (P<0.05 for both protocols). In protocol 3, skin sympathetic nerve activity significantly increased during hot flashes and returned to pre-flash levels following the hot flashes.
Elevations in skin blood flow during the postmenopausal hot flash are neurally mediated primarily through BTX sensitive nerves; presumably sympathetic cholinergic.
Skin Blood Flow; Sympathetic Cholinergic; Menopause
Phantom limb phenomena were correlated with psychophysiological measures of peripheral sympathetic nervous system activity measured at the amputation stump and contralateral limb. Amputees were assigned to one of three groups depending on whether they reported phantom limb pain, non-painful phantom limb sensations, or no phantom limb at all. Skin conductance and skin temperature were recorded continuously during two 30 minute sessions while subjects continuously monitored and rated the intensity of any phantom limb sensation or pain they experienced. The results from both sessions showed that mean skin temperature was significantly lower at the stump than the contralateral limb in the groups with phantom limb pain and non-painful phantom limb sensations, but not among subjects with no phantom limb at all. In addition, stump skin conductance responses correlated significantly with the intensity of non-painful phantom limb paresthesiae but not other qualities of sensation or pain. Between-limb measures of pressure sensitivity were not significantly different in any group. The results suggest that the presence of a phantom limb, whether painful or painless, is related to the sympathetic-efferent outflow of cutaneous vasoconstrictor fibres in the stump and stump neuromas. The hypothesis of a sympathetic-efferent somatic-afferent mechanism involving both sudomotor and vasoconstrictor fibres is proposed to explain the relationship between stump skin conductance responses and non-painful phantom limb paresthesiae. It is suggested that increases in the intensity of phantom limb paresthesiae follow bursts of sympathetic activity due to neurotransmitter release onto apposing sprouts of large diameter primary afferents located in stump neuromas, and decreases correspond to periods of relative sympathetic inactivity. The results of the study agree with recent suggestions that phantom limb pain is not a unitary syndrome, but a symptom class with each class subserved by different aetiological mechanisms.
Chronic smoking is thought to cause changes in brain reward systems that result in overvaluation of cigarette-related stimuli and undervaluation of natural rewards. We tested the hypotheses that, in smokers, brain circuits involved in emotional processing 1) would be more active during exposure to cigarette-related than neutral pictures, and 2) would be less active to pleasant compared to cigarette-related pictures, suggesting a devaluation of intrinsically pleasant stimuli. We obtained whole brain blood-oxygenation-level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging (BOLD fMRI) data from 35 smokers during the presentation of pleasant (erotica and romance), unpleasant (mutilations and sad), neutral, and cigarette-related pictures. Whole brain analyses showed significantly larger BOLD responses during presentation of cigarette-related pictures relative to neutral ones within the secondary visual areas, the cingulate gyrus, the frontal gyrus, the dorsal striatum, and the left insula. BOLD responses to erotic pictures exceeded responses to cigarette-related pictures in all clusters except the insula. Within the left insula we observed larger BOLD responses to cigarette-related pictures than to all other picture categories. By including intrinsically pleasant and unpleasant pictures in addition to neutral ones, we were able to conclude that the presentation of cigarette-related pictures activates brain areas supporting emotional processes, but we did not find evidence of overall reduced activation of the brain reward systems in the presence of intrinsically pleasant stimuli.
pictures; smoking; nicotine; emotions; insula
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects motor, cognitive, and emotional functioning. Previous studies reported reduced skin conductance responses in PD patients, compared to healthy older adults when viewing emotionally arousing pictures. Attenuated skin conductance changes in PD may reflect peripheral autonomic dysfunction (e.g., reduced nerve endings at the sweat gland) or, alternatively, a more central emotional deficit. The aim of the current study was to investigate a second measure of sympathetic arousal—change in pupil dilation. Eye movements, a motor-based correlate of emotional processing, were also assessed. Results indicated that pupil dilation was significantly greater when viewing emotional, compared to neutral pictures for both PD patients and controls. On the other hand, PD patients made fewer fixations with shorter scan paths, particularly when viewing pleasant pictures. These results suggest that PD patients show normal sympathetic arousal to affective stimuli (indexed by pupil diameter), but differences in motor correlates of emotion (eye movements.)
emotion; arousal; Parkinson’s disease; pupil; eye movement
Re-entrant modulation of visual cortex has been suggested as a critical process for enhancing perception of emotionally arousing visual stimuli. This study explores how the time information inherent in large-scale electrocortical measures can be used to examine the functional relationships among the structures involved in emotional perception. Granger causality analysis was conducted on steady-state visual evoked potentials elicited by emotionally arousing pictures flickering at a rate of 10 Hz. This procedure allows one to examine the direction of neural connections. Participants viewed pictures that varied in emotional content, depicting people in neutral contexts, erotica, or interpersonal attack scenes. Results demonstrated increased coupling between visual and cortical areas when viewing emotionally arousing content. Specifically, intraparietal to inferotemporal and precuneus to calcarine connections were stronger for emotionally arousing picture content. Thus, we provide evidence for re-entrant signal flow during emotional perception, which originates from higher tiers and enters lower tiers of visual cortex.
affective arousal; electroencephalography; emotion; Granger causality; steady-state potentials
Tropical inhabitants are able to tolerate heat through permanent residence in hot and often humid tropical climates. The goal of this study was to clarify the peripheral mechanisms involved in thermal sweating pre and post exposure (heat-acclimatization over 10 days) by studying the sweating responses to acetylcholine (ACh), a primary neurotransmitter of sudomotor activity, in healthy subjects (n=12). Ten percent ACh was administered on the inner forearm skin for iontophoresis. Quantitative sudomotor axon reflex testing, after iontophoresis (2 mA for 5 min) with ACH, was performed to determine directly activated (DIR) and axon reflex-mediated (AXR) sweating during ACh iontophoresis. The sweat rate, activated sweat gland density, sweat gland output per single gland activated, as well as oral and skin temperature changes were measured. The post exposure activity had a short onset time (p<0.01), higher active sweat rate [(AXR (p<0.001) and DIR (p<0.001)], higher sweat output per gland (p<0.001) and higher transepidermal water loss (p<0.001) compared to the pre-exposure measurements. The activated sweat rate in the sudomotor activity increased the output for post-exposure compared to the pre-exposure measurements. The results suggested that post-exposure activity showed a higher active sweat gland output due to the combination of a higher AXR (DIR) sweat rate and a shorter onset time. Therefore, higher sudomotor responses to ACh receptors indicate accelerated sympathetic nerve responsiveness to ACh sensitivity by exposure to environmental conditions.
Short-term heat-acclimatization; Sudomotor axon reflex; Active sweat gland; Single sweat gland output; Acetylcholine
The sympathetic skin response (SSR) at the foot to a deep inspiration was measured in 68 randomly selected diabetic patients and 46 age matched normal subjects and compared with other quantitative measures of neurological and sudomotor function. SSR was obtained in all but three diabetic patients. The upper limit of normal for the onset latency was 2202 ms and the lower limit for the amplitude of the first wave 92 microV. Ten diabetic patients had measurable but prolonged latencies, and 11 had measurable but low amplitudes. There were no significant associations between latency, height, and age, but in insulin dependent patients there was a significant diminution of response amplitude with increasing duration of diabetes. Latency was weakly associated with Marstock thermal thresholds, respiratory RR variation, and common peroneal nerve conduction velocity. SSR amplitude was associated with the density of pilocarpine activatable sweatspots in the same region of the foot. Patients with abnormal latencies were significantly older and had reduced thermal sensation than those with normal latencies. Median coefficients of variation for repeat testing in diabetic patients were 9% for latency and 13% for amplitude. The test is objective and reproducible, but latency measurements reflect conduction in a long multineuronal pathway and are not purely a measure of peripheral C fibre function; amplitude measurements reflect the density of spontaneously activable sweat glands and are therefore a valid measure of peripheral sympathetic activity, though they depend more on temperature than do latencies (mean change over the range 32-34 degrees C; 8.5% degrees C for amplitude, -2.5%/degrees C for latency).
The presence of cigarette-related cues has been associated with smoking relapse. These cues are believed to activate brain mechanisms underlying emotion, attention, and memory. Electroencephalography (EEG) alpha desynchronization (i.e., reduction in alpha power) has been suggested to index the engagement of these mechanisms. Analyzing EEG alpha desynchronization in response to affective and smoking cues might improve our understanding of how smokers process these cues, and the potential impact of this processing on relapse.
Before the start of a medication-assisted cessation attempt, we recorded EEG from 179 smokers during the presentation of neutral, pleasant, unpleasant, and cigarette-related pictures. Wavelet analysis was used to extract EEG alpha oscillations (8–12 Hz) in response to these pictures. Alpha oscillations were analyzed as a function of picture valence and arousal dimensions.
Emotional and cigarette-related stimuli induced a higher level of alpha desynchronization (i.e., less power in the alpha frequency band) than neutral stimuli. In addition, the level of alpha desynchronization induced by cigarette-related stimuli was similar to that induced by highly arousing stimuli (i.e., erotica and mutilations).
These results suggest that, for smokers, cigarette-related cues are motivationally significant stimuli that may engage emotional, attentional, and memory-related neural mechanisms at a level comparable to that seen in response to highly arousing stimuli. This finding suggests that activation of emotional, attentional, and memory-related brain mechanisms may be an important contributor to cue-induced smoking relapse.
To develop a cutaneous biomarker for Parkinson disease (PD).
Twenty patients with PD and 14 age- and sex-matched control subjects underwent examinations, autonomic testing, and skin biopsies at the distal leg, distal thigh, and proximal thigh. α-Synuclein deposition and the density of intraepidermal, sudomotor, and pilomotor nerve fibers were measured. α-Synuclein deposition was normalized to nerve fiber density (the α-synuclein ratio). Results were compared with examination scores and autonomic function testing.
Patients with PD had a distal sensory and autonomic neuropathy characterized by loss of intraepidermal and pilomotor fibers (p < 0.05 vs controls, all sites) and morphologic changes to sudomotor nerve fibers. Patients with PD had greater α-synuclein deposition and higher α-synuclein ratios compared with controls within pilomotor nerves and sudomotor nerves (p < 0.01, all sites) but not sensory nerves. Higher α-synuclein ratios correlated with Hoehn and Yahr scores (r = 0.58–0.71, p < 0.01), with sympathetic adrenergic function (r = −0.40 to −0.66, p < 0.01), and with parasympathetic function (r = −0.66 to −0.77, p > 0.01).
We conclude that α-synuclein deposition is increased in cutaneous sympathetic adrenergic and sympathetic cholinergic fibers but not sensory fibers of patients with PD. Higher α-synuclein deposition is associated with greater autonomic dysfunction and more advanced PD. These data suggest that measures of α-synuclein deposition in cutaneous autonomic nerves may be a useful biomarker in patients with PD.
It is known that the sudden increases in blood pressure associated with autonomic dysreflexia in people with spinal cord injury (SCI) are due to a spinally mediated reflex activation of sympathetic vasoconstrictor neurons supplying skeletal muscle and the gut. Apart from visceral inputs, such as those originating from a distended bladder, there is a prevailing opinion that autonomic dysreflexia can be triggered by noxious stimulation below the lesion. However, do noxious inputs really cause an increase in blood pressure in SCI? Using microelectrodes inserted into a peripheral nerve to record sympathetic nerve activity we had previously shown that selective stimulation of small-diameter afferents in muscle or skin, induced by bolus injection of hypertonic saline into the tibialis anterior muscle or the overlying skin, evokes a sustained increase in muscle sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure and a transient increase in skin sympathetic nerve activity and decrease in skin blood flow in able-bodied subjects. We postulated that these sympathetic responses would be exaggerated in SCI, with a purely noxious stimulus causing long-lasting increases in blood pressure and long-lasting decreases in skin blood flow. Surprisingly, though, we found that intramuscular or subcutaneous injection of hypertonic saline into the leg caused negligible changes in these parameters. Conversely, weak electrical stimulation over the abdominal wall, which in able-bodied subjects is not painful and activates large-diameter cutaneous afferents, caused a marked increase in blood pressure in SCI but not in able-bodied subjects. This suggests that it is activation of large-diameter somatic afferents, not small-diameter afferents, that triggers increases in sympathetic outflow in SCI. Whether the responses to activation of large-diameter afferents reflect plastic changes in the spinal cord in SCI is unknown.
autonomic dysreflexia; innocuous stimulation; noxious stimulation; spinal cord injury; sympathetic nervous system
Background: Patients with familial dysautonomia (FD) manifest episodic hyperhidrosis despite the reduction of sudomotor fibres and sweat glands associated with this autonomic neuropathy. We assessed peripheral sudomotor nerve fibre and sweat gland function to determine if this symptom was due to peripheral denervation hypersensitivity.
Methods: In 14 FD patients and 11 healthy controls, direct and axon reflex mediated sweat responses were determined by measuring transepidermal water loss (TEWL) after application of acetylcholine via a microdialysis membrane, a novel method to evaluate sudomotor function in neuropathy patients. Results were compared with data from conventional quantitative sudomotor axon reflex testing (QSART). Using microdialysis, interstitial fluid was analysed for plasma proteins to evaluate protein extravasation induced by acetylcholine as an additional parameter of C-fibre function.
Results: Although reduced axon reflex sweating was expected in FD patients, neither direct or axon reflex mediated sweat responses, nor acetylcholine induced protein extravasation differed between control and patient groups. However, the baseline resting sweat rate was higher in FD patients than controls (p<0.05). TEWL and QSART test results correlated (r = 0.64, p = 0.01), proving the reliability of TEWL methodology in evaluating sudomotor function.
Conclusion: The finding of normal direct and axon reflex mediated sweat output in FD patients supports our hypothesis that, in a disorder with severe sympathetic nerve fibre reduction, sudomotor fibres, but not the sweat gland itself, exhibit chemical hypersensitivity. This might explain excessive episodic hyperhidrosis in situations with increased central sympathetic outflow.
When grown in rich medium, Escherichia coli exhibits a drastic reduction of the number of viable cells at the beginning of stationary phase. The decline of cell viability was retarded by disruption of the ssnA gene, which was identified as a gene subject to RpoS-dependent negative regulation. Moreover, ssnA expression was induced at the time of decline of cell viability at early stationary phase. The viability decline was augmented in the rpoS background, and this augmentation was suppressed by ssnA mutation. Cloning of the ssnA gene in a multicopy plasmid, pBR322, caused small colony formation and slow growth in liquid medium. Cells harboring the ssnA clone showed aberrant morphology that included enlarged and filamentous shapes. The gene product was identified as a 44-kDa soluble protein, but its function could not be deduced by homology searching. From these results, we conclude that ssnA is expressed in response to a phase-specific signal(s) and that its expression level is controlled by RpoS, by a mechanism which may contribute to determination of cell number in the stationary phase.
Stress tasks are used to induce sympathetic nervous system (SNS) arousal. However, the efficacy and the patterns of SNS activation have not been systematically compared between different tasks.
Therefore, we analyzed SNS activation during the following stress tasks: Presentation of negative, positive, and – as a control – neutral affective pictures, Color-Word interference test (CWT), mental arithmetic under time limit, singing a song aloud, and giving a spontaneous talk. We examined 11 healthy subjects and recorded the following SNS parameters: Activation of emotional sweating by quantitative sudometry, skin vasoconstriction by laser-Doppler flowmetry, heart rate by ECG, blood pressure by determination of pulse wave transit time (PWTT), and electromyographic (EMG) activity of the trapezius muscle. Moreover, subjective stress ratings were acquired for each task using a visual analog scale.
All tasks were felt significantly stressful when compared to viewing neutral pictures. However, SNS activation was not reliable: Affective pictures did not induce a significant SNS response; singing, giving a talk and mental arithmetic selectively increased heart rate and emotional sweating. Only the CWT globally activated the SNS. Regarding all tasks, induction of emotional sweating, increase of heart rate and blood pressure significantly correlated with subjective stress ratings, in contrast to EMG and skin vasoconstriction.
Our results show that the activation of the SNS widely varies depending on the stress task. Different stress tasks differently activate the SNS, which is an important finding when considering sympathetic reactions - in clinical situations and in research.