Muscle sympathetic nerve activity during postural change in healthy young and older adults

Alexander V. Ng, David G. Johnson, Robin Callister, Douglas R. Seals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Recent evidence suggests that during orthostatic stress the reflex increase in muscle sympathetic nerve activity may be diminished in older adults. To test this hypothesis, we measured muscle sympathetic nerve activity, plasma noradrenaline concentrations, heart rate, and arterial blood pressure in twelve young (mean, 25 years; range, 19-29 years) adults and 14 older (mean 64 years; range, 60-74 years) healthy adults, while supine and during upright sitting. Supine control levels of muscle sympathetic nerve activity were higher in the older subjects (35 ± 1 vs. 25 ± 1 bursts/min, p < 0.05), but there were no differences in plasma noradrenaline concentrations, heart rate or arterial pressure. Despite higher supine control levels in the older group, the absolute unit increases in muscle sympathetic nerve activity in response to upright sitting (p < 0.05 vs. control) were not different in the two groups (7 ± 1 vs. 7 ± 1 bursts/min), nor were the increases in plasma noradrenaline concentrations. Heart rate did not increase above supine control in response to sitting in either group. Arterial pressure increased slightly (p < 0.05, supine vs. control), but there were no age-related differences. These results indicate that, contrary to recent findings, the reflex increases in muscle sympathetic nerve activity and plasma noradrenaline concentrations and regulation of arterial pressure during this natural orthostatic stress are well preserved in older healthy men and women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-60
Number of pages4
JournalClinical Autonomic Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1995


  • Ageing
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Postural stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Clinical Neurology


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