Investigating autonomic control of the cardiovascular system: a battery of simple tests.

Christopher D. Johnson*, Sean Roe, Etain A. Tansey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system constantly control the heart (sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions) and blood vessels (predominantly the sympathetic division) to maintain appropriate blood pressure and organ blood flow over sometimes widely varying conditions. This can be adversely affected by pathological conditions that can damage one or both branches of autonomic control. The set of teaching laboratory activities outlined here uses various interventions, namely, 1) the heart rate response to deep breathing, 2) the heart rate response to a Valsalva maneuver, 3) the heart rate response to standing, and 4) the blood pressure response to standing, that cause fairly predictable disturbances in cardiovascular parameters in normal circumstances, which serve to demonstrate the dynamic control of the cardiovascular system by autonomic nerves. These tests are also used clinically to help investigate potential damage to this control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-404
JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • sympathetic
  • parsympathetic
  • heart
  • vasculature
  • autonomic nervous system

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