This study investigated pulmonary and autonomic reactions to active and passive behavioral laboratory tasks among asthmatic subjects. It also examined the relationship between airway irritability, as measured by the methacholine challenge test (MCT), and autonomic activity and reactivity to these tasks. Fifty-one asthmatic and 37 nonasthmatic subjects were exposed to psychological laboratory tasks involving either active (mental arithmetic and reaction time) or passive (films depicting shop accidents and thoracic surgery) response. The MCT was given to asthmatics in a separate session. Active tasks reduced respiratory impedance, as measured by forced oscillation pneumography. They also increased heart rate and appeared to block vagal activity, as measured by respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). Airway irritability as assessed by the MCT was positively related to amplitude of RSA and to skin conductance levels. Our data suggest that active and passive behavioral tasks may produce different pulmonary effects among both asthmatic and nonasthmatic individuals. Engaging in tasks requiring active responses may produce temporary improvements in pulmonary function. No autonomic differences were obtained between asthmatics and nonasthmatics in physiological response to stress, but greater cholinergic receptor sensitivity was suggested among high responders to methacholine
Behavioral task-induced bronchodilation in asthma during active and passive tasks: A possible cholinergic link to psychologically induced airway changes
Lehrer, PM., Hochron, S., Carr, R., Edelberg, R., Hamer, R., Jackson, A., & Porges, S. (1996). Behavioral task-induced bronchodilation in asthma during active and passive tasks: A possible cholinergic link to psychologically induced airway changes. Psychosomatic Medicine, 58(5), 413-422.