Mechanisms of blood pressure and heart rate variability: An insight from low-level paraplegia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is still unclear whether the low-frequency oscillation in heart rate is generated by an endogenous neural oscillator or by a baroreflex resonance. Our aim was to investigate this issue by analyzing blood pressure and heart rate variability and the baroreflex function in paraplegic subjects with spinal cord injury below the fourth thoracic vertebra. These subjects were selected because they represent a model of intact central neural drive to the heart, with a partially impaired autonomic control of the vessels. In our study, arterial blood pressure and ECG were recorded in 33 able-bodied controls and in 33 subjects with spinal cord lesions between the fifth thoracic and the fourth lumbar vertebra 1) during supine rest (lowest sympathetic activation), 2) sitting on a wheelchair (light sympathetic activation), and 3) during exercise (moderate sympathetic activation). Blood pressure and heart rate spectra, coherence, and baroreflex function (sequence technique) were estimated in each condition. Compared with controls, paraplegic subjects showed a reduction of the low-frequency power of blood pressure and heart rate, and, unlike controls, a 0.1-Hz peak did not appear in their spectra. Sympathetic activation increased the 0.1-Hz peak of blood pressure and heart rate and the coherence at 0.1 Hz in controls only. Paraplegic subjects also had significantly lower baroreflex effectiveness and greater blood pressure variability. In conclusion, the disappearance of the 10-s oscillation of heart rate and blood pressure in subjects with spinal cord lesion supports the hypothesis of the baroreflex nature of this phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007


  • Baroreflex sensitivity
  • Paraplegia
  • Sympathetic activation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanisms of blood pressure and heart rate variability: An insight from low-level paraplegia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this