Sympathetic neural reactivity to mental stress in humans: test-retest reproducibility

Ida Tchuisseu Fonkoue, Michigan Technological University
Jason R. Carter, Michigan Technological University

© 2015 the American Physiological Society. Publisher's version of record:


Mental stress consistently increases arterial blood pressure, but this reliable pressor response is often associated with highly variable muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) responsiveness between individuals. Although MSNA has been shown to be reproducible within individuals at rest and during the cold pressor test (CPT), intraindividual reproducibility of MSNA responsiveness to mental stress has not been adequately explored. The purpose of this study was to examine MSNA reactivity to mental stress across three experimental sessions. Sixteen men and women (age 21 ± 1 yr) performed two experimental sessions within a single laboratory visit and a third experimental session 1 mo later. Each experimental session consisted of a mental stress trial via mental arithmetic and a CPT trial. Blood pressure, heart rate (HR), and MSNA were measured, and the consistencies of these variables were determined using intraclass correlation (Cronbach's α coefficient). MSNA, mean arterial pressure (MAP), and HR were highly reproducible across the baselines preceding mental stress (Cronbach's α ≥ 0.816, P ≤ 0.001) and CPT (Cronbach's α ≥ 0.782, P ≤ 0.001). Across the three mental stress trials, changes in MSNA (Cronbach's α = 0.875; P = 0.001), MAP (Cronbach's α = 0.749; P < 0.001), and HR (Cronbach's α = 0.919; P < 0.001) were reproducible. During CPT, changes in MSNA (Cronbach's α = 0.805; P = 0.008), MAP (Cronbach's α = 0.878; P < 0.001), and HR (Cronbach's α = 0.927; P < 0.001) remained consistent across the three sessions. In conclusion, our findings demonstrate that MSNA reactivity to mental stress is consistent within a single laboratory visit and across laboratory sessions conducted on separate days.