Vascular responses to fear-induced stress in humans

Naoyuki Hayashi*, Nami Someya, Toru Maruyama, Yoshitaka Hirooka, Masako Yamaoka Endo, Yoshiyuki Fukuba

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


The information about the effect of mental activities on detailed cardiovascular responses is limited, though strong and chronic psychological stressors are risk factors of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in humans. The responses of vascular resistance (VR) during fear-induced stress was studied by measuring the mean arterial pressure (MAP), heart rate (HR), skin blood flow in the index finger and forehead, limb blood flow in the calf and forearm, and blood flow in the renal and superior mesenteric arteries before, during, and after a period of induced fear. After 2 min of rest, baseline data were acquired from eight subjects, after which they watched a 3-min video that was considered to be frightening. Minute-by-minute data were calculated. The MAP was divided by the blood flow to attain the VR. While a clear steady state was not evident in the stress-induced vascular response, stress significantly increased the MAP and HR (e.g., by 10 ± 3 mm Hg and 8 ± 3 bpm, respectively, at the 2nd min; mean ± SEM), and the VR of the forearm and finger skin (e.g., by 80 ± 26% and 79 ± 28%, respectively, at the 2nd min). The VR increased slightly in the calf and visceral arteries but not in the forehead throughout the stimulation. The variables returned to baseline levels by the 1st min after cessation of the fearful stimulation. These results suggest that fear-induced stress causes vasoconstriction in the forearm and finger.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-446
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Oct 19
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood flow distribution
  • Fear
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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