Blunted autonomic response to standing up and head-up tilt in individuals with intellectual disabilities

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Journal of Applied Physiology





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Previous research suggests individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) may experience autonomic dysfunction, however, this has not been thoroughly investigated. The aim of this study was to compare the autonomic response to standing up (active orthostasis) and head-up tilt (passive orthostasis) in individuals with ID to a control group without ID. Eighteen individuals with and 18 individuals without ID were instrumented with an ECG-lead and finger-photoplethysmography for continuous heart rate and blood pressure recordings. The active and passive orthostasis protocol consisted of 10-min supine rest, 10-min standing, 10-min supine recovery, 5-min head-up tilt at 70°, followed by 10-min supine recovery. The last 5 min of each position was used to calculate hemodynamic and autonomic function (time- and frequency-domain heart rate and blood pressure variability measures and baroreflex sensitivity). Individuals with ID had higher heart rate during baseline and recovery (P < 0.05), and an attenuated hemodynamic (stroke volume, heart rate) and heart rate variability response to active and passive orthostasis (interaction effect P < 0.05) compared with individuals without ID. Mean arterial pressure (MAP) was higher in individuals with ID at all timepoints. Individuals with ID demonstrated altered hemodynamic and autonomic regulation compared with a sex- and age-matched control group, evidenced by a higher mean arterial pressure and a reduced response in parasympathetic modulation to active and passive orthostasis.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Individuals with ID demonstrated altered hemodynamic and autonomic regulation to the clinical autonomic function tasks standing up and head-up tilt (active and passive orthostasis). Higher resting heart rate and higher MAP throughout the protocol suggest a higher arousal level, and individuals with ID showed a blunted response in parasympathetic modulation. Further research should investigate the relationship of these findings with clinical outcomes.


autonomic function; hemodynamics; intellectual disabilities; orthostasis


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