Hemodynamics of blood pressure responses during active and passive coping.
This laboratory study was designed to address a number of interrelated issues regarding cardiovascular reactivity to psychological stress. One objective was to extend the previous research comparing cardiovascular responses during active versus passive coping, by comparing responses to two task conditions designed to be similar in all ways except the opportunity to make a response influencing the task's outcome. A second objective was to compare responses to two different passive film tasks, which differed in outcome uncertainty and the degree of vicarious active coping achieved through identification with the role portrayed by the actors. A third objective was to evaluate whether individuals are predisposed to exhibit a particular hemodynamic pattern underlying their blood pressure adjustments, independently of the task demands imposed. Ninety healthy young adult male subjects were tested in pairs on a series of tasks that included a competitive reaction-time task, an active as well as a passive phase of a team reaction-time task, and passive viewing of two film segments. The tasks demanding active coping responses tended to raise blood pressure due primarily to an increase in cardiac output, while vascular resistance fell. During passive coping demands cardiac output increased to a lesser extent, but vascular resistance also tended to increase, thereby raising blood pressure by their synergistic effects. However, these patterns were not typical of all participating subjects. On the basis of their cardiac output and vascular resistance responses to the competitive reaction-time task, one third of the subjects were categorized as being high myocardial reactors (n = 30) and another third high vascular reactors (n = 31). Post-hoc analyses of responses to the other tasks, based on these categorizations, indicated that the hemodynamic basis of reactivity is an individual characteristic only partially modified by coping demands. The active/passive coping dimension is discussed both conceptually and in relation to the role of stress in the etiology of hypertension.
Sherwood, A; Dolan, CA; Light, KC
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