BACKGROUND: Resistance breathing amplifies the respiratory pump during inspiration, so may be an effective intervention for treatment of hemorrhagic injuries. In animal studies of actual hemorrhage, and human studies of simulated hemorrhage, resistance breathing protects arterial pressure, and improves tolerance to this stress. Anecdotally, resistance breathing also increases the coupling between sympathetic nerve activity and arterial pressure. The impact of resistance breathing on overall sympathetic nerve activity, however, has not been examined. We tested the hypothesis that resistance breathing increases sympathetic nerve activity during simulated hemorrhage in healthy humans. METHODS: Lower body negative pressure (LBNP) was used to simulate hemorrhage in five human subjects (3M, 2F; 29.2 ± 6.8 y). Two experiments were conducted (randomized order): 1) a control condition in which LBNP was applied at 3 mmHg/min until the onset of presyncope, and 2) a resistance breathing condition in which the same LBNP protocol was used, but subjects breathed through a resistance device (set at -7 cm.H2O) during the final stages of the protocol. Arterial pressure and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) of the radial nerve were monitored continuously. Bursts frequency (bursts/min) and burst incidence (burst/ 100 heart beats) were used to quantify MSNA. Coupling between diastolic arterial pressure (DAP) and MSNA was assessed by transfer function analysis coherence within the low frequency range (0.04-0.15 Hz). Two-way repeated measures ANOVAs were conducted for assessment of responses in the control and resistance breathing conditions, between baseline and at matched time points late in the LBNP protocol. RESULTS: While LBNP induced increases in both MSNA burst frequency (P=0.003) and burst incidence (P=0.06), there was no effect of resistance breathing on MSNA for either index during LBNP (control, 57.9 ± 25.9 bursts/min vs. resistance breathing, 50.6 ± 21.7 bursts/min, P=0.99; control, 55.6 ± 25.6 b/100 heart beats vs. resistance breathing, 42.3 ± 18.3 b/100 heart beats, P=0.42). Additionally, there was no effect of resistance breathing on DAP (control, 73.2 ± 9.9 mmHg vs. resistance breathing, 72.8 ± 4.4 mmHg; P=0.99), or coherence between MSNA and DAP during LBNP (control, 0.53 ± 0.21 vs. resistance breathing, 0.69 ± 0.17; P=0.46). CONCLUSION: Contrary to our hypothesis, resistance breathing had no effect on sympathetic nerve activity during LBNP. A limitation of this study is the low sample size (N=5), and high variability of MSNA. Future investigations with a larger sample size are needed to determine if respiratory dynamics can influence the coupling between MSNA and arterial pressure.