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1.  Skin sympathetic nerve activity in humans during exposure to emotionally-charged images: sex differences 
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.
PMCID: PMC3958733  PMID: 24678303
skin sympathetic nerve activity; emotional processing; sex differences; sweat release; microneurography
2.  Clonality of HTLV-2 in Natural Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(3):e1004006.
Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) and type 2 (HTLV-2) both cause lifelong persistent infections, but differ in their clinical outcomes. HTLV-1 infection causes a chronic or acute T-lymphocytic malignancy in up to 5% of infected individuals whereas HTLV-2 has not been unequivocally linked to a T-cell malignancy. Virus-driven clonal proliferation of infected cells both in vitro and in vivo has been demonstrated in HTLV-1 infection. However, T-cell clonality in HTLV-2 infection has not been rigorously characterized. In this study we used a high-throughput approach in conjunction with flow cytometric sorting to identify and quantify HTLV-2-infected T-cell clones in 28 individuals with natural infection. We show that while genome-wide integration site preferences in vivo were similar to those found in HTLV-1 infection, expansion of HTLV-2-infected clones did not demonstrate the same significant association with the genomic environment of the integrated provirus. The proviral load in HTLV-2 is almost confined to CD8+ T-cells and is composed of a small number of often highly expanded clones. The HTLV-2 load correlated significantly with the degree of dispersion of the clone frequency distribution, which was highly stable over ∼8 years. These results suggest that there are significant differences in the selection forces that control the clonal expansion of virus-infected cells in HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 infection. In addition, our data demonstrate that strong virus-driven proliferation per se does not predispose to malignant transformation in oncoretroviral infections.
Author Summary
The two human retroviruses HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 are similar in their structure, replication cycle and the manner through which they spread between and within individuals. They differ in their preferred host T-cell type and in their possible clinical outcomes. HTLV-2 has not been linked with a specific disease, whereas HTLV-1 infection can cause leukemia and profound neuropathology. It is well established that HTLV-1-infected cells undergo clonal expansion in infected individuals, but little is known about clonality in HTLV-2 infection. In this work, we demonstrate that the extent of HTLV-2-infected cell expansion significantly exceeds that of HTLV-1-infected cells in healthy carriers, approximating instead to that observed in patients with HTLV-1-associated leukemia. Furthermore, we show that HTLV-2 characteristically resides in a small number of expanded clones that persist over time, and that the degree of oligoclonality significantly correlates with viral burden in HTLV-2-infected individuals. These results highlight the distinction between in vivo clonal proliferation and malignant transformation, and suggest that the infected cell type may be a more important determinant of clinical outcome in retroviral infections.
PMCID: PMC3953477  PMID: 24626195
4.  Increases in muscle sympathetic nerve activity, heart rate, respiration, and skin blood flow during passive viewing of exercise 
The cardiovascular and respiratory effects of exercise have been widely studied, as have the autonomic effects of imagined and observed exercise. However, the effects of observed exercise in the first person have not been documented, nor have direct recordings of muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) been obtained during observed or imagined exercise. The aim of the current study was to measure blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, skin blood flow, sweat release, and MSNA (via microelectrodes inserted into the common peroneal nerve), during observation of exercise from the first person point of view. It was hypothesized that the moving stimuli would produce robust compensatory increases in the above-mentioned parameters as effectively as those generated by mental imagery and—to a lesser extent—actual exercise. Nine subjects watched a first-person running video, allowing them to view the action from the perspective of the runner rather than viewing someone else perform the exercise. On average, statistically significant increases from baseline during the running phase were seen in heart rate, respiratory rate, skin blood flow, and burst amplitude of MSNA. These results suggest that observation of exercise in the first person is a strong enough stimulus to evoke “physiologically appropriate” autonomic responses that have a purely psychogenic origin.
PMCID: PMC3678085  PMID: 23781170
autonomic nervous system; muscle sympathetic nerve activity; cardiovascular; exercise; microneurography
5.  Autonomic markers of emotional processing: skin sympathetic nerve activity in humans during exposure to emotionally charged images 
The sympathetic innervation of the skin primarily subserves thermoregulation, but the system has also been commandeered as a means of expressing emotion. While it is known that the level of skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA) is affected by anxiety, the majority of emotional studies have utilized the galvanic skin response as a means of inferring increases in SSNA. The purpose of the present study was to characterize the changes in SSNA when showing subjects neutral or emotionally charged images from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). SSNA was recorded via tungsten microelectrodes inserted into cutaneous fascicles of the common peroneal nerve in ten subjects. Neutral images, positively charged images (erotica) or negatively charged images (mutilation) were presented in blocks of fifteen images of a specific type, each block lasting 2 min. Images of erotica or mutilation were presented in a quasi-random fashion, each block following a block of neutral images. Both images of erotica or images of mutilation caused significant increases in SSNA, but the increases in SSNA were greater for mutilation. The increases in SSNA were often coupled with sweat release and cutaneous vasoconstriction; however, these markers were not always consistent with the SSNA increases. We conclude that SSNA, comprising cutaneous vasoconstrictor and sudomotor activity, increases with both positively charged and negatively charged emotional images. Measurement of SSNA provides a more comprehensive assessment of sympathetic outflow to the skin than does the use of sweat release alone as a marker of emotional processing.
PMCID: PMC3461643  PMID: 23060818
skin sympathetic nerve activity; emotionally charged images; microneurography; sweat release; skin blood flow
6.  Somatosympathetic Vasoconstrictor Reflexes in Human Spinal Cord Injury: Responses to Innocuous and Noxious Sensory Stimulation below Lesion 
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.
PMCID: PMC3382416  PMID: 22737131
autonomic dysreflexia; innocuous stimulation; noxious stimulation; spinal cord injury; sympathetic nervous system

Results 1-6 (6)