The Bezold-Jarisch Reflex. A Historical Perspective of Cardiopulmonary Reflexes

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001 Jun;940:48-58.


The Bezold-Jarisch reflex is an eponym for a triad of responses (apnea, bradycardia, and hypotension) following intravenous injection of veratrum alkaloids in experimental animals. The observation was first reported in 1867 by von Bezold and Hirt, and confirmed in 1938-1940 by Jarisch. The triad depends on intact vagi and is mediated through cranial nervous medullary centers controlling respiration, heart rate, and vasomotor tone. The respiratory effects are mediated through pulmonary vagal afferents and the bradycardia and vasodepression through cardiac vagal afferents. The veratrum alkaloids activate all known receptors in the carotid-aortic and cardiopulmonary areas. The cardiopulmonary receptors (baroreceptors, cough receptors, and parenchymal stretch receptors) also respond to other chemical substances: nicotine, capsaicin, venom, antihistaminics, halogenated anesthetics, diguanides, and serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine). Derivatives of last-mentioned amine activate Type 1, 2, or 3 receptors and have potential therapeutic use. Since several types of cardiopulmonary receptors participate in the Bezold-Jarisch reflex, it has been difficult to develop a blockade to one type of receptor for therapeutic use (cough, bronchospasm, pulmonary hypertension, or coronary vasospasm). Axon reflexes influence pulmonary blood vessels, bronchial blood vessels, and bronchial smooth muscles. These intrapulmonary reflexes need further study as to how they relate to the Bezold-Jarisch reflex in health and disease. The cardiopulmonary and carotid-aortic reflexes can serve as defense mechanisms against chemical hazards that are likely to be inhaled in the workplace and in the environment.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Baroreflex / physiology*
  • Heart / physiology*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Neurology / history
  • Reflex / physiology*