Relationships between baroreceptor cardiac reflex sensitivity and cognitive performance: modulations by gender and blood pressure.
In the present study, the relationship between cardiac baroreceptor function and the perception of acute pain was investigated in 60 normotensive subjects. Baroreceptor reflex sensitivity was determined using the sequence method based on continuous blood pressure recordings. A cold pressor test was used for pain induction. Visual analogue scales and a questionnaire were applied in order to quantify sensory and affective pain experience. Moderated multiple regression analysis revealed an inverse relationship between baroreceptor reflex sensitivity assessed during painful stimulation and the intensity of experienced pain. This relationship was moderated by resting blood pressure, with decreasing blood pressure being accompanied by a decrease in the magnitude of the association. Furthermore, resting blood pressure was inversely related to pain intensity. The inverse association between baroreceptor reflex sensitivity and pain experience is discussed as reflecting the well-established pain-inhibiting effect of baroreceptor activity. The finding that this relationship was less pronounced in the case of lower blood pressure suggests that baroreceptor-mediated pain attenuation is reduced in this population.