Sex Differences in Autonomic Function

Emma C. Hart, Nisha Charkoudian, Michael J. Joyner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


This chapter focuses on sex differences in autonomic function and orthostatic intolerance and hypotension. In humans, both normal and pathophysiological mechanisms of autonomic control of blood pressure are modified by sex. Tonic sympathetic nerve activity can be measured using microneurography to measure muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) or norepinephrine spill-over techniques. Central estrogen administration also increases resting vagal tone in female mice, suggesting the sex hormones might also influence parasympathetic outflow to the heart. It is well accepted that even healthy young women who do not have symptoms of POTS are predisposed to orthostatic intolerance or hypotension at a greater rate compared to men. The exact mechanisms underlying this predisposition are unclear. The sympathetic nerve system is involved in the pathogenesis of hypertension, with many studies demonstrating that sympathetic nerve activity is elevated among individuals with hypertension. Aging is associated with an increased risk of developing hypertension. In this context, aging is associated with a gradual augmentation in sympathetic nerve activity and arterial pressure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPrimer on the Autonomic Nervous System
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages4
ISBN (Print)9780123865250
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012


  • Adrenergic
  • Aging
  • Blood pressure
  • Sympathetic nerve activity
  • Vasoconstriction
  • Vasodilation
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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