The Assessment of Functional Sympatholysis Post-Exercise in the Human Skeletal Muscle
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To optimize muscle blood flow to the skeletal muscle during exercise, the vascular bed of the muscle is partially protected from sympathetic nervous activity (SNA) vasoconstriction via a phenomenon termed functional sympatholysis. Functional sympatholysis has been documented during exercise periods in human skeletal muscle. However, it remains unknown whether functional sympatholysis is specific to the exercising period, or if it may persist for a period of time following skeletal muscle exercise. Through this study, we aimed to confirm the presence and duration of post-exercise functional sympatholysis in the human skeletal muscle. The cold pressor test (CPT) was administered to 9 male (mean age = 21.1 ± 0.8 years) participants at various time points during four different experimental trials (Rest, Exercise, Recovery 1 and Recovery 2). Exercise consisted of 7 minutes of moderate isometric handgrip exercise (15% below critical power). Heart rate (HR) and mean arterial pressure (MAP) were recorded continuously throughout each trial. Brachial artery mean blood velocity measurements as well as brachial artery diameter measurements were recorded on each participant’s exercising arm throughout each trial. Deep venous blood samples were drawn pre- and post-CPT administration from a catheter inserted into an antecubital vein of each participant’s non-experimental arm. The cardiovascular response to the CPT was repeatable across experimental days as it consistently resulted in MAP elevations regardless of the experimental time point of administration. The CPT also resulted in a significant elevation in plasma norepinephrine concentration from 0.49 ± 0.04 ng/mL at “pre-CPT” measurement to 0.66 ± 0.05 ng/mL at the end of the CPT in the Rest trial (P < 0.05). The percentage reduction in forearm vascular conductance (FVC) due to CPT administration during Exercise (4.5 ± 6.6%) and Recovery 1 (4 minutes post-exercise; -11.6 ± 8.8%) was significantly blunted in comparison to that measured during Rest (-34.8 ± 7.4%) (P < 0.05). The percentage change in FVC during the Recovery 2 trial (10 minutes post-exercise; -20.1 ± 7.1%) was not significantly different from that measured at Rest. These findings support the concept of a lingering presence of functional sympatholysis 4 minutes, but not 10 minutes, post-moderate exercise.