Mild dehydration modifies the cerebrovascular response to the cold pressor test

Exp Physiol. 2016 Jan;101(1):135-42. doi: 10.1113/EP085449. Epub 2015 Nov 3.


The cold pressor test (CPT) is widely used in clinical practice and physiological research. It is characterized by a robust autonomic response, with associated increases in heart rate (HR), mean arterial pressure (MAP) and mean middle cerebral artery blood flow velocity (MCAv(mean)). Hydration status is not commonly reported when conducting this test, yet blood viscosity alone can modulate MCAv(mean), potentially modifying the MCAv(mean) response to the CPT. We investigated the effect of mild dehydration on the physiological response to the CPT in 10 healthy men (mean ± SD: age 28 ± 5 years; body mass 83 ± 5 kg). All participants completed two CPTs, cold water (0°C) immersion of both feet for 90 s, with the order of the euhydration and dehydration trials counterbalanced. Beat-to-beat MCAv, MAP, HR and breath-by-breath partial pressure of end-tidal CO2 (P(ET,CO2)) were measured continuously. Participants' pain perception was measured 1 min into the CPT using a visual analog scale (no pain = 0; maximal pain = 10). Dehydration significantly elevated plasma osmolality and urine specific gravity and reduced body mass (all P < 0.01). The MAP and HR responses were not different between treatments (both P > 0.05). After 90 s of immersion, the change in MCAv(mean) from baseline was less in the dehydration compared with the euhydration trial (change 0 ± 5 versus 7 ± 7 cm s(-1), P = 0.01), as was P(ET,CO2) (change -3 ± 2 versus 0 ± 3 mmHg, P = 0.02). Dehydration was associated with greater relative pain sensation during the CPT (7.0 ± 1.3 vs 5.8 ± 1.8, P = 0.02). Our results demonstrate that mild dehydration can modify the cerebrovascular response to the CPT, with dehydration increasing perceived pain, lowering P ET ,CO2 and, ultimately, blunting the MCAv(mean) response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arterial Pressure
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Dehydration / physiopathology*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Immersion / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Pain Perception
  • Pressure
  • Young Adult