Cigarette smoking, blood lipids, and baroreceptor-modulated nociception

Harald Rau, Renate Schweizer, Ping Zhuang, Paul Pauli, Stuart Brody, Wolfgang Larbig, Helmut Heinle, Matthias Müller, Thomas Elbert, Barry Dworkin, Niels Birbaumer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Activation of arterial blood pressure has been shown to influence higher central nervous activity. In animals, induction of sleep-like states and increases of seizure and pain thresholds in response to baroreceptor stimulation have been reported. In certain human groups, mechanical stimulation of the carotid baroreceptors also increases pain thresholds. The present paper examines the hypothesis that smokers show baroreceptor dependent antinociception as compared to non-smokers. It is speculated that one effect which rewards smoking is the nicotine induced phasic blood pressure increase which leads to baroreceptor stimulation and dampens pain perception. One hundred and twenty subjects were investigated using a recently developed mechanical baroreceptor stimulation technique and an electrical pain stimulus. The group of heavy smokers showed the predicted effect: their pain thresholds were enhanced during conditions of increased baroreceptor activity as compared to the control condition. The group of medium, light and non-smokers, however, did not show this effect. Neither blood lipid levels nor diastolic or systolic blood pressure paralleled the group differences on baroreceptor dependent antinociception. In heavy smokers, the nicotine induced phasic blood pressure increase might have baroreceptor dependent pain dampening effects, which might be among the reinforcing qualities of smoking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-341
Number of pages5
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1993


  • Baroreceptor stimulation
  • Blood lipid levels
  • Cholesterol
  • Nicotine
  • Pain
  • PRES
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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