Altered autonomic cardiac regulation in individuals with Down syndrome

Ferdinando Iellamo, Alberto Galante, Jacopo M. Legramante, Maria Enrichetta Lippi, Claudia Condoluci, Giorgio Albertini, Maurizio Volterrani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We tested the hypothesis that individuals with Down syndrome, but without congenital heart disease, exhibit altered autonomic cardiac regulation. Ten subjects with Down syndrome (DS) and ten gender- and age-matched healthy control subjects were studied at rest and during active orthostatism, which induces reciprocal changes in sympathetic and parasympathetic traffic to the heart. Autoregressive power spectral analysis was used to investigate R-R interval variability. Baroreflex modulation of sinus node was assessed by the spontaneous baroreflex sequences method. No significant differences between DS and control subjects were observed in arterial blood pressure at rest or in response to standing. Also, R-R interval did not differ at rest. R-R interval decreased significantly less during standing in DS vs. control subjects. Low-frequency (LFNU) and high-frequency (HFNU) (both expressed in normalized units) components of R-R interval variability did not differ between DS and control subjects at rest. During standing, significant increase in LFNU and decrease in HFNU were observed in control subjects but not in DS subjects. Baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) did not differ between DS and control subjects at rest and underwent significant decrease on going from supine to upright in both groups. However, BRS was greater in DS vs. control subjects during standing. These data indicate that subjects with DS exhibit reduced HR response to orthostatic stress associated with blunted sympathetic activation and vagal withdrawal and with a lesser reduction in BRS in response to active orthostatism. These findings suggest overall impairment in autonomic cardiac regulation in DS and may help to explain the chronotropic incompetence typically reported during exercise in subjects with DS without congenital heart disease.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number6 58-6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


  • Arterial baroreflex
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Heart rate variability
  • Orthostatic stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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