We have assessed the changes in gastroduodenal motility responsible for the delay in gastric emptying produced by cold stress. Antropyloroduodenal pressures were recorded in 7 healthy volunteers, concurrent with scintigraphic measurement of gastric emptying. The manometric assembly incorporated a sleeve sensor located across the pylorus and side holes in the antrum and the duodenum. When approximately 25% of a 100-g 99m Tc-labeled ground beef burger had emptied from the stomach, a standardized cold pressor test was applied. This consisted of 60-s immersions of the left hand in iced water (4 degrees C), with 15-s rest periods between immersions, for up to 20 min. Cold stress was associated with slowed emptying from the total stomach (median, 17% before stress vs. 2% during stress; p less than 0.01) and the proximal stomach (9% before vs. 3% during; p less than 0.01). Retrograde movement of the solid meal from the distal to the proximal stomach was observed in 4 subjects. Cold stress increased the number of isolated pyloric pressure waves (p less than 0.05), and decreased the number of antral (p less than 0.01) and propagated antropyloroduodenal pressure waves (p less than 0.05). Phase 3-like duodenal activity occurred in 2 subjects during the first 5 min of stress; otherwise there was a reduction in the number of duodenal pressure waves during stress (p less than 0.05). Basal pyloric pressure was not elevate before, during, or after stress. We conclude that in addition to the previously reported antral inhibition, cold stress is associated with changes in pyloric and duodenal motility and, in some subjects, in the intragastric distribution of food. These modifications in gastroduodenal motility are likely to contribute to the delay in gastric emptying produced by this stimulus.