Psychophysiological reactions in hypertensive and arthritic patients

Rudolf H. Moos, Bernard T. Engel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This study attempted to identify characteristics physiological response patterns to specific psychological stressors in two psychosomatic groups: essential hypertensives and rheumatoid arthritics. An attempt was made to establish conditioned reactions to meaningful, verbally presented stimuli, and then to test for sematic generaliztion. The particular stimuli were picked to be differentially poignant to the two groups. The physiological functions measured were systolic and diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, skin conductance and muscle groups, a symptomatic muscle group which was that group which had been giving the rheumatoid arthritic most pain during the past week (an anatomically corresponding muscle was measured in a hypertensive control patient); and an asymptomatic muscle group. There was no conditioning; however the two groups reacted differentially to the experimental procedures. The arthritics showed a higher level of muscle potential in their symptomatic muscles, whereas there were no differences between the two groups in levels of asymptomatic muscle potential. The arthritics showed greater reactivity in both muscles. The hypertensives, on the other hand, showed sustained elevations during stimulation and greater recovery during rest in the blood pressure measures. The arthritics showed higher heart rate and skin conductance levels and greater reactivity in skin conductance during conditioning than the hypertensives. There were no differences in physiological reactions to the different phrases. The arthritics, then, did not adapt in muscle tension whereas they did in blood pressure, and the hypertensives showed adaptation in muscle tension and sustained elevation in blood pressure. The results were discussed and it was concluded that they supported a theory of response specificity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-241
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1962
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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