Nicotine acutely inhibits erectile tumescence by altering heart rate variability.

PMID 24642073


To examine potential mechanisms underlying nicotine's effects on male sexual arousal by exploring the mediating role of heart rate variability (HRV). The sample comprised 22 healthy, nicotine-naïve men (mean age = 20.91 years; standard deviation = 2.43). Data were taken from a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial previously completed and published elsewhere. During each laboratory visit, time-domain parameters of HRV (standard deviation of normal-to-normal [NN] intervals, square root of the mean squared difference of successive NN intervals, and percent of NN intervals for which successive heartbeat intervals differed by at least 50 ms [pNN50]) along with the objective (via penile plethysmography) and subjective indices of sexual arousal were assessed. Acute nicotine ingestion (compared with placebo) was associated with dysregulated sympathovagal balance, which in turn was related to relatively reduced erectile tumescence. HRV did not mediate relations between nicotine intake and self-reported indices of sexual arousal. HRV mediated the association between nicotine ingestion and erectile capacity. Findings suggest that dysfunctional cardiac autonomic tone may be an underlying mechanism by which nicotine exerts its deleterious effects on erectile health.