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Concept: Autonomic nervous system


This long-term study examined relationships between solar and magnetic factors and the time course and lags of autonomic nervous system (ANS) responses to changes in solar and geomagnetic activity. Heart rate variability (HRV) was recorded for 72 consecutive hours each week over a five-month period in 16 participants in order to examine ANS responses during normal background environmental periods. HRV measures were correlated with solar and geomagnetic variables using multivariate linear regression analysis with Bonferroni corrections for multiple comparisons after removing circadian influences from both datasets. Overall, the study confirms that daily ANS activity responds to changes in geomagnetic and solar activity during periods of normal undisturbed activity and it is initiated at different times after the changes in the various environmental factors and persist over varying time periods. Increase in solar wind intensity was correlated with increases in heart rate, which we interpret as a biological stress response. Increase in cosmic rays, solar radio flux, and Schumann resonance power was all associated with increased HRV and parasympathetic activity. The findings support the hypothesis that energetic environmental phenomena affect psychophysical processes that can affect people in different ways depending on their sensitivity, health status and capacity for self-regulation.

Concepts: Nervous system, Time, Linear regression, Sun, Autonomic nervous system, Sympathetic nervous system, Solar wind, Cosmic ray


The return trip often seems shorter than the outward trip even when the distance and actual time are identical. To date, studies on the return trip effect have failed to confirm its existence in a situation that is ecologically valid in terms of environment and duration. In addition, physiological influences as part of fundamental timing mechanisms in daily activities have not been investigated in the time perception literature. The present study compared round-trip and non-round-trip conditions in an ecological situation. Time estimation in real time and postdictive estimation were used to clarify the situations where the return trip effect occurs. Autonomic nervous system activity was evaluated from the electrocardiogram using the Lorenz plot to demonstrate the relationship between time perception and physiological indices. The results suggest that the return trip effect is caused only postdictively. Electrocardiographic analysis revealed that the two experimental conditions induced different responses in the autonomic nervous system, particularly in sympathetic nervous function, and that parasympathetic function correlated with postdictive timing. To account for the main findings, the discrepancy between the two time estimates is discussed in the light of timing strategies, i.e., prospective and retrospective timing, which reflect different emphasis on attention and memory processes. Also each timing method, i.e., the verbal estimation, production or comparative judgment, has different characteristics such as the quantification of duration in time units or knowledge of the target duration, which may be responsible for the discrepancy. The relationship between postdictive time estimation and the parasympathetic nervous system is also discussed.

Concepts: Time, Psychology, Autonomic nervous system, Sympathetic nervous system, Parasympathetic nervous system


This laboratory study explored buffering and recovery effects of viewing urban green and built spaces on autonomic nervous system activity. Forty-six students viewed photos of green and built spaces immediately following, and preceding acute stress induction. Simultaneously recorded electrocardiogram and impedance cardiogram signal was used to derive respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and pre-ejection period (PEP), indicators of respectively parasympathetic and sympathetic activity. The findings provide support for greater recovery after viewing green scenes, as marked by a stronger increase in RSA as a marker of parasympathetic activity. There were no indications for greater recovery after viewing green scenes in PEP as a marker of sympathetic activity, and there were also no indications of greater buffering effects of green space in neither RSA nor PEP. Overall, our findings are consistent with a predominant role of the parasympathetic nervous system in restorative effects of viewing green space.

Concepts: Autonomic nervous system, Sympathetic nervous system, Parasympathetic nervous system


The autonomic nervous system plays a critical role in glucose metabolism through both its sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, but the mechanisms that underlie the development of the autonomic innervation of the pancreas remain poorly understood. Here, we report that cholinergic innervation of pancreatic islets develops during mid-gestation under the influence of leptin. Leptin-deficient mice display a greater cholinergic innervation of pancreatic islets beginning in embryonic life, and this increase persists into adulthood. Remarkably, a single intracerebroventricular injection of leptin in embryos caused a permanent reduction in parasympathetic innervation of pancreatic β cells and long-term impairments in glucose homeostasis. These developmental effects of leptin involve a direct inhibitory effect on the outgrowth of preganglionic axons from the hindbrain. These studies reveal an unanticipated regulatory role of leptin on the parasympathetic nervous system during embryonic development and may have important implications for our understanding of the early mechanisms that contribute to diabetes.

Concepts: Nervous system, Brain, Insulin, Developmental biology, Pancreas, Autonomic nervous system, Sympathetic nervous system, Parasympathetic nervous system


Music can improve the efficiency of medical treatment when correctly associated with drug action, reducing risk factors involving deteriorating cardiac function. We evaluated the effect of musical auditory stimulus associated with anti-hypertensive medication on heart rate (HR) autonomic control in hypertensive subjects. We evaluated 37 well-controlled hypertensive patients designated for anti-hypertensive medication. Heart rate variability (HRV) was calculated from the HR monitor recordings of two different, randomly sorted protocols (control and music) on two separate days. Patients were examined in a resting condition 10 minutes before medication and 20 minutes, 40 minutes and 60 minutes after oral medication. Music was played throughout the 60 minutes after medication with the same intensity for all subjects in the music protocol. We noted analogous response of systolic and diastolic arterial pressure in both protocols. HR decreased 60 minutes after medication in the music protocol while it remained unchanged in the control protocol. The effects of anti-hypertensive medication on SDNN (Standard deviation of all normal RR intervals), LF (low frequency, nu), HF (high frequency, nu) and alpha-1 scale were more intense in the music protocol. In conclusion, musical auditory stimulus increased HR autonomic responses to anti-hypertensive medication in well-controlled hypertensive subjects.

Concepts: Blood, Hypertension, Cardiology, Blood pressure, Artery, Autonomic nervous system, Low frequency, High frequency


This study examined the physiological effects of touching wood with various coating with the palm of the hand on brain activity and autonomic nervous activity. Participants were 18 female university students (mean age, 21.7 ± 1.6 years). As an indicator of brain activity, oxyhemoglobin concentrations were measured in the left and right prefrontal cortices using near-infrared time-resolved spectroscopy. Heart rate variability (HRV) and heart rate were used as indicators of autonomic nervous activity. The high-frequency (HF) component of HRV, which reflects parasympathetic nervous activity, and the low-frequency (LF)/HF ratio, which reflects sympathetic nervous activity, were measured. Plates of uncoated, oil-finished, vitreous-finished, urethane-finished, and mirror-finished white oak wood were used as tactile stimuli. After sitting at rest with their eyes closed for 60 s, participants touched the stimuli with their palm for 90 s each. The results indicated that tactile stimulation with uncoated wood calmed prefrontal cortex activity (vs. urethane finish and mirror finish), increased parasympathetic nervous activity (vs. vitreous finish, urethane finish, and mirror finish), and decreased heart rate (vs. mirror finish), demonstrating a physiological relaxation effect. Further, tactile stimulation with oil- and vitreous-finished wood calmed left prefrontal cortex activity and decreased heart rate relative to mirror-finished wood.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebrum, Autonomic nervous system, Sympathetic nervous system, Premotor cortex, Prefrontal cortex, Parasympathetic nervous system, Oak


Nerves are a common feature of the microenvironment, but their role in tumor growth and progression remains unclear. We found that the formation of autonomic nerve fibers in the prostate gland regulates prostate cancer development and dissemination in mouse models. The early phases of tumor development were prevented by chemical or surgical sympathectomy and by genetic deletion of stromal β2- and β3-adrenergic receptors. Tumors were also infiltrated by parasympathetic cholinergic fibers that promoted cancer dissemination. Cholinergic-induced tumor invasion and metastasis were inhibited by pharmacological blockade or genetic disruption of the stromal type 1 muscarinic receptor, leading to improved survival of the mice. A retrospective blinded analysis of prostate adenocarcinoma specimens from 43 patients revealed that the densities of sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve fibers in tumor and surrounding normal tissue, respectively, were associated with poor clinical outcomes. These findings may lead to novel therapeutic approaches for prostate cancer.

Concepts: Nervous system, Cancer, Metastasis, Prostate cancer, Acetylcholine, Autonomic nervous system, Prostate, Parasympathetic nervous system


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.

Concepts: Scientific method, Blood, Heart, Muscle, Acetylcholine, Autonomic nervous system, Common fibular nerve, First-person narrative


Increased sympathetic and decreased parasympathetic activity contribute to heart failure (HF) symptoms and disease progression. Carotid baroreceptor stimulation (baroreflex activation therapy; BAT) results in centrally mediated reduction of sympathetic and increase in parasympathetic activity. Because patients treated with cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) may have less sympathetic / parasympathetic imbalance, we hypothesized that there would be differences in the response to BAT in patients with CRT versus those without CRT.

Concepts: Myocardial infarction, Cardiology, Heart failure, Ejection fraction, Heart, Mammal, Autonomic nervous system, Sinoatrial node


Purpose: We analyzed heart rate variability (HRV) to detect alterations in autonomic function that may be associated with functional overreaching (F-OR) in endurance athletes.Methods: Twenty one trained male triathletes were randomly assigned to either intensified training (n=13) or normal training (n=8) groups during 5 weeks. HRV measures were taken daily during a one-week moderate training (baseline), three weeks of overload training and a one-week taper.Results: All the subjects of the intensified training group demonstrated a decrease in maximal incremental running test performance at the end of the overload period (-9.0±2.1% of baseline value) followed by a performance supercompensation after the taper and were therefore diagnosed as F-OR. According to a qualitative statistical analysis method, a likely to very likely negative effect of F-OR on HR was observed at rest in supine and standing positions, using isolated 7th day values and weekly average values, respectively. When considering the values obtained once per week, no clear effect of F-OR on HRV parameters was found. In contrast, the weekly mean of each HRV parameter showed a larger change in indices of parasympathetic tone in the F-OR group than the control group in supine position (with a 96/4/0% chance to demonstrate a positive/trivial/negative effect on LnRMSSD after the overload period; 77/22/1% on LnHF) and standing position [98/1/1% on LnRMSSD; 99/0/1% on LnHF; 95/¼% on Ln(LF+HF)]. During the taper, theses responses were reversed.Conclusion: Using daily HRV recordings averaged over each week, this study detected a progressive increase in the parasympathetic modulation of HR in endurance athletes led to F-OR. It also revealed that due to a wide day-to-day variability, isolated, once per week HRV recordings may not detect training-induced autonomic modulations in F-OR athletes.

Concepts: Autonomic nervous system, Parasympathetic nervous system