Social technology restriction alters state-anxiety but not autonomic activity in humans

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Social technology is extensively used by young adults throughout the world, and it has been suggested that interrupting access to this technology induces anxiety. However, the influence of social technology restriction on anxiety and autonomic activity in young adults has not been formally examined. Therefore, we hypothesized that restriction of social technology would increase state-anxiety and alter neural cardiovascular regulation of arterial blood pressure. Twenty-one college students (age 18–23 yr) were examined during two consecutive weeks in which social technology use was normal or restricted (randomized crossover design). Mean arterial pressure (MAP), heart rate, and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) were measured at rest and during several classic autonomic stressors, including isometric handgrip, postexercise muscle ischemia, cold pressor test, and mental stress. Tertile analysis revealed that restriction of social technology was associated with increases (12 ± 2 au; range 5 to 21; n = 7), decreases (−6 ± 2 au; range −2 to −11; n = 6), or no change (0 ± 0 au; range −1 to 3; n = 8) in state-anxiety. Social technology restriction did not alter MAP (74 ± 1 vs. 73 ± 1 mmHg), heart rate (62 ± 2 vs. 61 ± 2 beats/min), or MSNA (9 ± 1 vs. 9 ± 1 bursts/min) at rest, and it did not alter neural or cardiovascular responses to acute stressors. In conclusion, social technology restriction appears to have an interindividual influence on anxiety, but not autonomic activity. It remains unclear how repeated bouts, or chronic restriction of social technology, influence long-term psychological and cardiovascular health.

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© 2011 the American Physiological Society. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.00418.2011

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American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology