Respiratory and hemodynamic contributions to emotion-related pre-syncopal vasovagal symptoms

Johanna M. Harrison*, Philippe T. Gilchrist, Tiana S. Corovic, Curtis Bogetti, Yuqing Song, Simon L. Bacon, Blaine Ditto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Vasovagal reactions are conventionally understood as resulting from systemic changes in cardiovascular activity; however, there exists a complementary perspective focused on specific changes in cerebral vasoconstriction associated with hyperventilation-induced hypocapnia. The present study investigated the role of cardiovascular and respiratory activity in self-reported pre-syncopal vasovagal reactions to a surgery video in a sample of 49 healthy women. Participants who indicated more previous real-life episodes of dizziness reported experiencing significantly more symptoms in the laboratory consistent with a vasovagal response. They also showed lower total peripheral resistance and higher pre-ejection period in general, suggesting lower sympathetic nervous system activity. Significant decreases in end-tidal carbon dioxide (PETCO2) occurred during the surgery video among susceptible participants, without significant increases in respiration rate. Further, participants who experienced reductions from the neutral video in PETCO2, systolic blood pressure, or both, reported vasovagal symptoms during the surgery video. The results suggest that patterns of respiration associated with decreases in PETCO2 may contribute to vasovagal symptoms reported in non-clinical groups as well as those with blood-injection- injury phobia and are associated with susceptibility to dizziness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-52
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • vasovagal symptoms
  • presyncope
  • hypocapnia
  • hyperventilation
  • end-tidal CO2
  • impedance cardiography


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