Passive Limb Movement: Evidence of Mechanoreflex Sex Specificity

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Blood flow, mechanoreceptors, afferents, gender


Previous studies have determined that premenopausal women exhibit an attenuated metaboreflex; however, little is known about sex specificity of the mechanoreflex. Thus, we sought to determine if sex differences exist in the central and peripheral hemodynamic responses to passive limb movement. Second-by-second measurements of heart rate, stroke volume, cardiac output (CO), mean arterial pressure, and femoral artery blood flow (FBF) were recorded during 3 min of supine passive knee extension in 24 young healthy subjects (12 women and 12 men). Normalization of CO and stroke volume to body surface area, expressed as cardiac index and stroke index, eliminated differences in baseline central hemodynamics, whereas, peripherally, basal FBF and femoral vascular conductance were similar between the sexes. In response to passive limb movement, women displayed significantly attenuated peak central hemodynamic responses compared with men (heart rate: 9.0 ± 1 vs. 14.8 ± 2% change, stroke index: 4.5 ± 0.6 vs. 7.8 ± 1.2% change, cardiac index: 9.6 ± 1 vs. 17.2 ± 2% change, all P < 0.05), whereas movement induced similar increases in peak FBF (167 ± 32 vs. 193 ± 17% change) and femoral vascular conductance (172 ± 31 vs. 203 ± 16% change) in both sexes (women vs. men, respectively). Additionally, there was a significant positive relationship between individual peak FBF and peak CO response to passive movement in men but not in women. Thus, although both sexes exhibited similar movement-induced hyperemia and peripheral vasodilatory function, the central hemodynamic response was blunted in women, implying an attenuated mechanoreflex. Therefore, this study reveals that, as already recognized with the metaboreflex, there is likely a sex-specific attenuation of the mechanoreflex in women.

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American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology