• Autonomic nervous system;
  • Mental arithmetic;
  • Paced breathing;
  • Secretory immunoglobulin A

The role of the autonomic nervous system in secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) responses to laboratory challenge was explored in a study in which sIgA and cardiovascular activity were recorded at rest and during mental arithmetic and paced breathing. These tasks were selected to preferentially engage the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, respectively. Mental arithmetic elicited a mixed pattern of increased alpha- and beta-adrenergic activity and a reduction in parasympathetic activity; diastolic blood pressure, total peripheral resistance, and systolic blood pressure increased, preejection period shortened, and heart rate variability decreased. In contrast, paced breathing primarily elicited an increase in parasympathetic activity; heart rate variability increased. Mental arithmetic also provoked an increase in sIgA concentration but no change in saliva volume, whereas paced breathing affected neither sIgA concentration nor saliva volume. These data suggest that sIgA responses to laboratory challenges are mediated by sympathetic rather than parasympathetic processes.