Central autonomic regulation in congenital central hypoventilation syndrome

Neuroscience. 2010 Jun 2;167(4):1249-56. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.02.078. Epub 2010 Mar 6.


Congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS) patients show significant autonomic dysfunction in addition to the well-described loss of breathing drive during sleep. Some characteristics, for example, syncope, may stem from delayed sympathetic outflow to the vasculature; other symptoms, including profuse sweating, may derive from overall enhanced sympathetic output. The dysregulation suggests significant alterations to autonomic regulatory brain areas. Murine models of the genetic mutations present in the human CCHS condition indicate brainstem autonomic nuclei are targeted; however, the broad range of symptoms suggests more widespread alterations. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess neural response patterns to the Valsalva maneuver, an autonomic challenge eliciting a sequence of sympathetic and parasympathetic actions, in nine CCHS and 25 control subjects. CCHS patients showed diminished and time-lagged heart rate responses to the Valsalva maneuver, and muted fMRI signal responses across multiple brain areas. During the positive pressure phase of the Valsalva maneuver, CCHS responses were muted, but were less so in recovery phases. In rostral structures, including the amygdala and hippocampus, the normal declining patterns were replaced by increasing trends or more modest declines. Earlier onset responses appeared in the hypothalamus, midbrain, raphé pallidus, and left rostral ventrolateral medulla. Phase-lagged responses appeared in cerebellar pyramis and anterior cingulate cortex. The time-distorted and muted central responses to autonomic challenges likely underlie the exaggerated sympathetic action and autonomic dyscontrol in CCHS, impairing cerebral autoregulation, possibly exacerbating neural injury, and enhancing the potential for cardiac arrhythmia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Sleep Apnea, Central / congenital
  • Sleep Apnea, Central / physiopathology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult