Mechanisms responsible for presyncope during lower body negative pressure (LBNP) in otherwise healthy subjects are poorly understood. Muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA), blood pressure, heart rate (HR), HR power spectra, central venous pressure (CVP) and stroke volume were determined in 14 healthy men subjected to incremental LBNP. Of these, seven experienced presyncope at LBNP >-15 mmHg. Subjects who tolerated LBNP >-15 mmHg had significantly lower CVP (2.6±1.0 versus 7.2±1.2 mmHg; means±S.E.M., P < 0.02), HR (59±2 versus 66±3 beats/min, P < 0.05) and MSNA burst frequency (29.0±2.4 versus 39.0±3.5 bursts/min, P < 0.05) during supine rest. LBNP at -15 mmHg had no effect on blood pressure, but caused similar and significant reductions in stroke volume and cardiac output in both groups. Subjects who tolerated LBNP had significant reflex increases in HR, MSNA burst frequency and burst amplitude with LBNP of -15 mmHg. These responses were absent in those who experienced presyncope. The gain of the cardiac baroreflex regulation of MSNA was markedly attenuated in pre-syncopal subjects (1.2±0.6 versus 8.8±1.4 bursts/100 heart beats per mmHg; P < 0.001). Healthy subjects who experience presyncope in response to LBNP appear more dependent, when supine, upon MSNA to maintain preload, and less able to increase sympathetic vasoconstrictor discharge to skeletal muscle reflexively in response to orthostatic stimuli.

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