Hypnotic manipulation of effort sense during dynamic exercise: Cardiovascular responses and brain activation

J. W. Williamson, R. Mccoll, D. Mathews, J. H. Mitchell, P. B. Raven, W. P. Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


The purpose of this investigation was to hypnotically manipulate effort sense during dynamic exercise and determine whether cerebral cortical structures previously implicated in the central modulation of cardiovascular responses were activated. Six healthy volunteers (4 women, 2 men) screened for high hypnotizability were studied on 3 separate days during constant-load exercise under three hypnotic conditions involving cycling on a 1) perceived level grade, 2) perceived downhill grade, and 3) perceived uphill grade. Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), heart rate (HR), blood pressure (BP), and regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) distributions for several sites were compared across conditions using an analysis of variance. The suggestion of downhill cycling decreased both the RPE [from 13 ± 2 to 11 ± 2 (SD) units; P < 0.05] and rCBF in the left insular cortex and anterior cingulate cortex, but it did not alter exercise HR or BP responses. Perceived uphill cycling elicited significant increases in RPE (from 13 ± 2 to 14 ± 1 units), HR (+16 beats/min), mean BP (+7 mmHg), right insular activation (+7.7 ± 4%), and right thalamus activation (+9.2 ± 5%). There were no differences in rCBF for leg sensorimotor regions across conditions. These findings show that an increase in effort sense during constant-load exercise can activate both insular and thalamic regions and elevate cardiovascular responses but that decreases in effort sense do not reduce cardiovascular responses below the level required to sustain metabolic needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1392-1399
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Human
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Single-photon-emission computed tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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