Thermoregulatory reflex control of cutaneous vasodilation in healthy aging

Jody Leigh Greaney, Anna E. Stanhewicz, S. Tony Wolf, W. Larry Kenney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Reflex cutaneous vasodilation during heating is attenuated in healthy human aging secondary to blunted increases in efferent skin sympathetic nervous system activity (SSNA) and reductions in end-organ sensitivity. Whether age-related alterations in the mean body temperature ((Formula presented.) b) threshold for increasing SSNA and/or the sensitivity of responses are evident with aging have not been examined. We tested the hypotheses that the Tb threshold for SSNA and cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC) would be increased, but the sensitivity would be reduced, with aging. Reflex vasodilation was induced in 13 young (23 ± 3 y) and 13 older (67 ± 7 y) adults using a water-perfused suit to systematically increase mean skin and esophageal temperatures. SSNA (peroneal microneurography) and red cell flux (laser Doppler flowmetry) in the innervated dermatome were continuously measured. SSNA was normalized to baseline; CVC was normalized as a percentage of maximal CVC. Baseline (Formula presented.) b was lower in older adults (36.0 ± 0.4°C vs 36.4 ± 0.3°C; p = 0.005). During passive heating, the ∆ (Formula presented.) b thresholds for increasing SSNA and CVC were greater (1.3 ± 0.4°C vs 0.9 ± 0.3°C; p = 0.007 and 1.3 ± 0.4°C vs 0.8 ± 0.3°C; p = 0.002, respectively) in older adults. The slope of the relation between both SSNA (0.31 ± 0.23 vs 0.13 ± 0.10 V⋅s⋅°C −1; p = 0.01) and CVC (87.5 ± 50.1 vs 32.4 ± 18.1%max⋅°C−1; p = 0.002) vs (Formula presented.) b was lower in older adults. The relative (Formula presented.) b threshold for activation of SSNA and the initiation of reflex cutaneous vasodilation is higher in older adults, and once activated, the sensitivity of both responses is diminished, supporting the concept that the efferent component of the thermoregulatory reflex arc is impaired in healthy aging. Abbreviations: CI: confidence interval; CVC: cutaneous vascular conductance; SSNA: skin sympathetic nervous system activity; (Formula presented.) b: mean body temperature; Tes: esophageal temperature; (Formula presented.) sk: mean skin temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTemperature
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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