Psychophysiology: Human Behavior and Physiological Response

By John L. Andreassi | Go to book overview

14
Blood Pressure, Blood Volume, and Behavior

Blood pressure (BP) is one of the most frequently measured physiological variables. Its measurement in the physician's office and the hospital or clinic far exceeds its use as a variable in psychological research. This is because of its importance as a general index of cardiovascular function and health. Research on the effects of psychological stimuli on blood pressure dates back to at least the 1920s, when Nissen, as one example, obtained blood pressure readings of patients in a dentist's chair. Pressures rose sharply as soon as the dentist entered the room! ( Woodworth & Schlosberg, 1954).

Blood volume (BV) is much less familiar than blood pressure. It refers to the amount of blood that is present in a certain portion of body tissue at a given time. Blood volume changes occur as a function of local metabolic requirements, and an important factor affecting it is the behavior in which the individual is engaged. Early studies of blood volume include those of Shepard, who reported in 1906 that the expectation of a stimulus led to decreased hand blood volume and an increase in brain volume ( Woodworth & Schlosberg, 1954). This chapter examines BP and BV as physiological variables in psychological research. Some questions of interest regarding blood pressure include the effects of cognitive load and problem solving on this measure. Important issues concerning effects of stress, frustration, hostility, and anger on changes in blood pressure are also considered, as are the relationships between Type A/B personality and this vital measure. In addition, social factors such as crowding and communications are examined with respect to their influence on blood pressure. The extent to which blood pressure can be conditioned through classical and instrumental procedures is also covered.

With regard to blood volume changes as a function of psychological processes, there is less coverage because the research in this area is not as extensive as for blood pressure. Nevertheless, there are important issues concerning the use of blood volume measurements in research on sexual response of both women and men, and blood volume changes during the orienting response and instrumental conditioning. The BP and BV responses, and their relation to behavior, are presented after a brief discussion of the anatomy and physiology of these measures.


ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY OF THE BLOOD VESSELS

Blood vessels may be divided into several categories on the basis of their size, function, and microscopic characteristics. These categories include the large elastic arteries, medium-size arteries, small arteries (arterioles), capillaries, veins, and venules ( Jacob & Francone, 1970). The blood vessels are composed of three layers: an inner tunica intima, a middle tunica media, and an outer tunica adventitia. (Note the direct use of the Latin word for a layer of

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