Melatonin attenuates the skin sympathetic nerve response to mental stress

Matthew D. Muller, Charity L. Sauder, Chester A. Ray

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22 Scopus citations


Melatonin attenuates muscle sympathetic nerve responses to sympathoexcitatory stimuli, but it is unknown whether melatonin similarly attenuates reflex changes in skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA). In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, we tested the hypothesis that melatonin (3 mg) would attenuate the SSNA response to mental stress (mental arithmetic). Twelve healthy subjects underwent experimental testing on two separate days. Three minutes of mental stress occurred before and 45 min after ingestion of melatonin (3 mg) or placebo. Skin temperature was maintained at 34°C. Reflex increases in SSNA (peroneal nerve), mean arterial pressure, and heart rate (HR) to mental stress before and after melatonin were determined. Melatonin lowered HR (pre, 66 ± 3 beats/min; and post, 62 ± 3 beats/min, P = 0.046) and SSNA (pre, 14,282 ± 3,706 arbitrary units; and post, 9,571 ± 2,609 arbitrary units, P = 0.034) at rest. In response to mental stress, SSNA increases were significantly attenuated following melatonin ingestion (second minute, 114 ± 30 vs. 74 ± 14%; and third minute, 111 ± 29 vs. 54 ± 12%, both P < 0.05). The mean arterial pressure increase to mental stress was blunted in the third minute (20 ± 2 vs. 17 ± 2 mmHg, P = 0.032), and the HR increase was blunted in the first minute (33 ± 3 vs. 29 ± 3 beats/min, P = 0.034) after melatonin. In summary, exogenous melatonin attenuates the SSNA response to mental stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1382-H1386
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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