Relative roles of local and reflex components in cutaneous vasoconstriction during skin cooling in humans

Guy E. Alvarez, Kun Zhao, Wojciech A. Kosiba, John M. Johnson

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36 Scopus citations


The reduction in skin blood flow (SkBF) with cold exposure is partly due to the reflex vasoconstrictor response from whole body cooling (WBC) and partly to the direct effects of local cooling (LC). Although these have been examined independently, little is known regarding their roles when acting together, as occurs in environmental cooling. We tested the hypothesis that the vasoconstrictor response to combined LC and WBC would be additive, i.e., would equal the sum of their independent effects. We further hypothesized that LC would attenuate the reflex vasoconstrictor response to WBC. We studied 16 (7 women, 9 men) young (30.5 ± 2 yr) healthy volunteers. LC and WBC were accomplished with metal Peltier cooler-heater probe holders and water-perfused suits, respectively. Forearm SkBF was monitored by laser-Doppler flowmetry (LDF). Cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC) was calculated as LDF/blood pressure. Subjects underwent 15 min of LC alone or 15 min of WBC with and without simultaneous LC, either at equal levels (34-31°C) or as equipotent stimuli (34-28°C LC; 34-31°C WBC). The fall in CVC with combined WBC and LC was greater (P < 0.05) than for either alone (57.0 ± 5% combined vs. 39.2 ± 6% WBC; 34.4 ± 4% LC) with equipotent cooling, but it was only significantly greater than for LC alone with equal levels of cooling (51.3 ± 8% combined vs. 29.5 ± 4% LC). The sum of the independent effects of WBC and LC was greater than their combined effects (74.9 ± 4 vs. 51.3 ± 8% equal and 73.6 ± 7 vs. 57.0 ± 5% equipotent; P ± 0.05). The fall in CVC with WBC at LC sites was reduced compared with control sites (17.6 ± 2 vs. 42.4 ± 8%; P ± 0.05). Hence, LC contributes importantly to the reduction in SkBF with body cooling, but also suppresses the reflex response, resulting in a nonadditive effect of these two components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2083-2088
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Local control of blood flow
  • Peripheral circulation
  • Reflex cooling
  • Skin circulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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