Public speaking is often a stressful chore. Just how stressful becomes apparent on reading a recent report by Taggart and associates.1 Prompted by their previous observations2 that physiological changes accompany the unpleasant symptoms experienced by some public speakers, these investigators recorded pulse rates, electrocardiograms, and plasma catecholamine and fatty acid concentrations in 30 subjects—7 with coronary heart disease—speaking before an audience. Electrocardiograms were monitored during the speeches, and chemical analyses were made on blood samples drawn immediately before and after speaking.
All subjects manifested tachycardia, the fastest heart rates reaching 180 beats per minute. The majority had characteristic electrocardiographic abnormalities—depressed J points in those with normal hearts and depressed S-T segments in sufferers from coronary artery heart disease. All but two of the latter group had multiple, often multifocal ventricular ectopic beats. These occurred only in a minority of subjects with normal hearts. While epinephrine concentration remained unchanged,