The purpose of this study was to examine whether 14 days of head-down tilt bed rest (HDBR) alters autonomic regulation during Valsalva's manoeuvre (VM) and if this would predict blood pressure control during a 60 degrees head-up tilt (HUT) test. To examine autonomic control of blood pressure, we measured the changes in systolic (delta SBP) and diastolic (delta DBP) blood pressure between baseline and the early straining (Phase IIE) period of VM (20 sec straining to 40 mmHg; N = 7) in conjunction with changes in muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA; microneurography) burst frequency (B/min) and total activity (% delta) from baseline over the 20-sec straining period. MSNA data were successfully recorded from 6 of the 7 individuals. The averaged responses from three repeated VMs performed in the supine position were compared between the pre- and post-HDBR tests. Compared with the pre-HDBR test, a greater reduction in SBP, DBP, and MAP was observed during Phase IIE following HDBR, p < 0.05. The increase in MSNA burst frequency during straining was augmented in the post- compared with the pre-HDBR test, p < 0.0001, as was the Phase IV blood pressure overshoot, p < 0.05. Although all subjects completed the 20-min pre-HDBR tilt test without evidence of hypotension or orthostatic intolerance, the post-HDBR test was stopped early in 5 of the 7 subjects due to systolic hypotension. The responses during the VM suggest that acute autonomic adjustments to rapid blood pressure changes are preserved after bed rest. Furthermore, MSNA and blood pressure responses during VM did not predict blood pressure control during orthostasis following HDBR.
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