The behavioral impact of baroreflex function: A review



The baroreflex consists of a negative feedback loop adjusting heart activity to blood pressure fluctuations. This review is concerned with interactions between baroreflex function and behavior. In addition to changes in baroreflex cardiac control subject to behavioral manipulations, interindividual differences in reflex function predicted psychological and central nervous features. The sensitivity of the reflex was inversely related to cognitive performance, evoked potential amplitudes, experimental pain sensitivity, and the severity of clinical pain. Possible variables moderating the strength of the associations are tonic blood pressure, gender, and psychiatric disease. It is suggested that these observations reflect inhibition of higher brain function by baroreceptor afferents. While in many cases increased baroreflex function implies stronger inhibition, individual and situational factors modulate the behavioral impact of cardiac regulation.