New insights into central cardiovascular control during exercise in humans: A central command update

J. W. Williamson, P. J. Fadel, J. H. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

224 Scopus citations


The autonomic adjustments to exercise are mediated by central signals from the higher brain (central command) and by a peripheral reflex arising from working skeletal muscle (exercise pressor reflex), with further modulation provided by the arterial baroreflex. Although it is clear that central command, the exercise pressor reflex and the arterial baroreflex are all requisite for eliciting appropriate cardiovascular adjustments to exercise, this review will be limited primarily to discussion of central command. Central modulation of the cardiovascular system via descending signals from higher brain centres has been well recognized for over a century, yet the specific regions of the human brain involved in this exercise-related response have remained speculative. Brain mapping studies during exercise as well as non-exercise conditions have provided information towards establishing the cerebral cortical structures in the human brain specifically involved in cardiovascular control. The purpose of this review is to provide an update of current concepts on central command in humans, with a particular emphasis on the regions of the brain identified to alter autonomic outflow and result in cardiovascular adjustments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-58
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Physiology (medical)


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