Central Autonomic Disorders

Eduardo E. Benarroch, Fen Lei F. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Summary: Central autonomic dysfunctions can be due to primary (degenerative) or secondary disorders. Autonomic failure (AF) may be a major manifestation of multiple system atrophy (MSA) and idiopathic Parkinson's disease (IPD). In both MSA and IPD, AF is almost invariably associated with neuronal loss in the intermediolateral cell columns. Dysautonomia in MSA is early, severe, and progressive, including marked orthostatic hypotension and urinary incontinence and is complicated by respiratory disturbances, such as laryngeal stridor and sleep apnea. MSA/AF can be differentiated from primary (or pure) autonomic failure (PAF) without central nervous system involvement. PAF is mainly a disorder of the postganglionic neurons. In contrast to PAF, MSA/AF has preserved basal sympathetic activity, decreased cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) neurotransmitter markers, impaired vasopressin response to hypotension, and impaired adrenocorticotrophic hormone/beta endorphin response to hypoglycemia. AF in IPD is generally less severe than in MSA. Poor response to L-Dopa, abnormal urethral sphincter electromyography, and CSF markers may distinguish MSA from IPD. Secondary autonomic disorders may result from traumatic, vascular, inflammatory, demyelinating, or neoplastic lesions involving corticolimbic, hypothalamic, brainstem, or spinal autonomic network. These disorders can cause AF or autonomic hyperactivity, such as arrhythmia, hypertension, and hyperthermia. However, many disorders may only produce subclinical abnormalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-50
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Dysautonomia
  • Multiplesystematrophy
  • Parkinsons disease
  • Primaryautonomicfailure
  • Secondaryautonomicfailure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)

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