Neurogenic Background for Emotional Stress-Associated Hypertension

Marco Antônio Peliky Fontes, Fernanda Ribeiro Marins, Tapan A. Patel, Cristiane Amorim de Paula, Liliane Ramos dos Santos Machado, Érick Bryan de Sousa Lima, Ana Caroline Ventris-Godoy, Ana Clara Rocha Viana, Isadora Cristina Souza Linhares, Carlos Henrique Xavier, Jessica A. Filosa, Kaushik P. Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: The response to natural stressors involves both cardiac stimulation and vascular changes, primarily triggered by increases in sympathetic activity. These effects lead to immediate flow redistribution that provides metabolic support to priority target organs combined with other key physiological responses and cognitive strategies, against stressor challenges. This extremely well-orchestrated response that was developed over millions of years of evolution is presently being challenged, over a short period of time. In this short review, we discuss the neurogenic background for the origin of emotional stress-induced hypertension, focusing on sympathetic pathways from related findings in humans and animals. Recent Findings: The urban environment offers a variety of psychological stressors. Real or anticipatory, emotional stressors may increase baseline sympathetic activity. From routine day-to-day traffic stress to job-related anxiety, chronic or abnormal increases in sympathetic activity caused by emotional stressors can lead to cardiovascular events, including cardiac arrhythmias, increases in blood pressure and even sudden death. Among the various alterations proposed, chronic stress could modify neuroglial circuits or compromise antioxidant systems that may alter the responsiveness of neurons to stressful stimuli. These phenomena lead to increases in sympathetic activity, hypertension and consequent cardiovascular diseases. Summary: The link between anxiety, emotional stress, and hypertension may result from an altered neuronal firing rate in central pathways controlling sympathetic activity. The participation of neuroglial and oxidative mechanisms in altered neuronal function is primarily involved in enhanced sympathetic outflow. The significance of the insular cortex-dorsomedial hypothalamic pathway in the evolution of enhanced overall sympathetic outflow is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-116
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Hypertension Reports
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Anxiety
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Emotional stress
  • Hypertension
  • Sympathetic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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