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Brain Activation By Central Command During Actual And Imagined Handgrip Under Hypnosis

J. W. Williamson, R. McColl, D. Mathews, J. H. Mitchell, P. B. Raven, W. P. Morgan

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The purpose was to compare patterns of brain activation during imagined handgrip exercise and identify cerebral cortical structures participating in “central” cardiovascular regulation. Subjects screened for hypnotizability, five with higher (HH) and four with lower hypnotizability (LH) scores, were tested under two conditions involving 3 min of 1) static handgrip exercise (HG) at 30% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) and 2) imagined HG (I-HG) at 30% MVC. Force (kg), forearm integrated electromyography, rating of perceived exertion, heart rate (HR), mean blood pressure (MBP), and differences in regional cerebral blood flow distributions were compared using an ANOVA. During HG, both groups showed similar increases in HR (+13 ± 5 beats/min) and MBP (+17 ± 3 mmHg) after 3 min. However, during I-HG, only the HH group showed increases in HR (+10 ± 2 beats/min; P < 0.05) and MBP (+12 ± 2 mmHg; P < 0.05). There were no significant increases or differences in force or integrated electromyographic activity between groups during I-HG. The rating of perceived exertion was significantly increased for the HH group during I-HG, but not for the LH group. In comparison of regional cerebral blood flow, the LH showed significantly lower activity in the anterior cingulate (−6 ± 2%) and insular cortexes (−9 ± 4%) during I-HG. These findings suggest that cardiovascular responses elicited during imagined exercise involve central activation of insular and anterior cingulate cortexes, independent of muscle afferent feedback; these structures appear to have key roles in the central modulation of cardiovascular responses.