Asymmetry of the pupillary light reflex during a cold pressor test

  • Peter D. Drummond
    Discipline of Psychology, College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education, Murdoch University, 6150, Western Australia, Australia.
    Discipline of Psychology and Centre for Healthy Ageing, College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch, WA, Australia
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      • Pupillary dilatation was greater during foot immersion in ice-water than warm water.
      • Ice-water immersion facilitated pupillary re-dilation after bright light exposure.
      • Ipsilateral re-dilation was faster than contralateral re-dilation during this test.
      • Sympathetic pupillary drive is greater ipsilateral than contralateral to pain.


      Pupillary light reflexes were monitored in 20 healthy participants while they immersed one foot in painfully cold water (the cold pressor test) or in warm water for 1 min. Pupillary dilatation was greater during the cold pressor test than during the warm-water immersion. In addition, during the cold pressor test, re-dilation after exposure to bright light proceeded more rapidly for the ipsilateral than contralateral pupil. These findings suggest that sympathetic pupillary drive is greater ipsilateral than contralateral to pain.


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