Impact Factor

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Neurosci., 11 June 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2013.00102

Increases in muscle sympathetic nerve activity, heart rate, respiration, and skin blood flow during passive viewing of exercise

Rachael Brown1*, Ursula Kemp1 and Vaughan Macefield1,2
  • 1School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Penrith, NSW, Australia
  • 2Neuroscience Research Australia, Sydney, NSW, Australia

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.

Keywords: autonomic nervous system, muscle sympathetic nerve activity, cardiovascular, exercise, microneurography

Citation: Brown R, Kemp U and Macefield V (2013) Increases in muscle sympathetic nerve activity, heart rate, respiration, and skin blood flow during passive viewing of exercise. Front. Neurosci. 7:102. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00102

Received: 24 April 2013; Accepted: 23 May 2013;
Published online: 11 June 2013.

Edited by:

John P. Horn, University of Pittsburgh, USA

Reviewed by:

Alberto Porta, University of Milan, Italy
Jon W. Williamson, UT Southwestern Medical Center, USA

Copyright © 2013 Brown, Kemp and Macefield. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Rachael Brown, School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia e-mail: r.brown@uws.edu.au