Combined heat and mental stress alters neurovascular control in humans

Jenna C. Klein, Craig G. Crandall, R. Matthew Brothers, Jason R. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


This study examined the effect of combined heat and mental stress on neurovascular control. We hypothesized that muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) and forearm vascular responses to mental stress would be augmented during heat stress. Thirteen subjects performed 5 min of mental stress during normothermia (Tcore; 37 ± 0°C) and heat stress (38 ± 0°C). Heart rate, mean arterial pressure (MAP), MSNA, forearm vascular conductance (FVC; venous occlusion plethysmography), and forearm skin vascular conductance (SkVCf; via laser-Doppler) were analyzed. Heat stress increased heart rate, MSNA, SkVCf, and FVC at rest but did not change MAP. Mental stress increased MSNA and MAP during both thermal conditions; however, the increase in MAP during heat stress was blunted, whereas the increase in MSNA was accentuated, compared with normothermia (time × condition; P < 0.05 for both). Mental stress decreased SkVCf during heat stress but not during normothermia (time × condition, P < 0.01). Mental stress elicited similar increases in heart rate and FVC during both conditions. In one subject combined heat and mental stress induced presyncope coupled with atypical blood pressure and cutaneous vascular responses. In conclusion, these findings indicate that mental stress elicits a blunted increase of MAP during heat stress, despite greater increases in total MSNA and cutaneous vasoconstriction. The neurovascular responses to combined heat and mental stress may be clinically relevant to individuals frequently exposed to mentally demanding tasks in hyperthermic environmental conditions (i.e., soldiers, firefighters, and athletes).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1880-1886
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Arterial blood pressure
  • Blood flow
  • Hyperthermia
  • Mental arithmetic
  • Sympathetic nerve activity
  • Vascular conductance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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