Operant Conditioning of Blood Pressure: Effects of Mediators

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Operant conditioning, Blood pressure, Respiration, Muscle activity

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Respiration and frontalis muscle activity were evaluated as mediators in the operant conditioning of systolic blood pressure (BP). Three groups of 7 normotensives received 5 training sessions with either: a) systolic BP feedback alone, b) systolic BP feedback plus respiration rate and volume feedback, or c) systolic BP feedback plus frontalis muscle activity feedback. Respiration and muscle feedback subjects were given BP feedback so that they might test various response strategies for BP control. Each session consisted of 5 training cycles, during which the subject was instructed to “lower” BP and then “don't lower” BP. This design demonstrated subjects' BP control, while eliminating extraneous factors as sources of BP change. Respiration feedback clearly enhanced acquisition of BP control, while frontalis muscle feedback was ineffective as a BP mediator. Respiration subjects slowed respiration rate and increased respiration volume when lowering BP. No other systematic physiological changes occurred in any group. Reflex instigation of BP lowering in the respiration group was improbable for a variety of reasons. It was concluded that while mediators may not be essential for response acquisition, they can serve to enhance autonomic self‐regulation. These findings have significant implications for hypertension treatment methodology.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Psychophysiology, v. 15, isuue 6, p. 517-537