The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of baroreceptor unloading on the sensitivity of the cardiovagal and sympathetic arms of the baroreflex during upright posture. Beat-by-beat R-R interval, arterial blood pressure and cardiac output (Doppler ultrasound), as well as muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) were recorded during periods in supine (Supine) and 60 deg head-up tilt (HUT) positions (n = 8 volunteers). Cardiovagal baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) was measured by the spontaneous sequence analysis method using systolic blood pressure and R-R interval, while sympathetic BRS was determined using the slope of the linear relationship between decreasing segments of diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and corresponding increases in MSNA. On changing to HUT, mean R-R interval and cardiac output decreased, while mean measures of MSNA, DBP and total peripheral resistance increased (P < 0.05). Cardiovagal BRS decreased from Supine to 60 deg HUT (19 ± 2 ms mmHg-1 versus 7.6 ± 1.2 ms mmHg-1; P < 0.01). In contrast, sympathetic BRS increased from -6.1 ± 1.4 a.u. mmHg-1 in Supine to -14 ± 2 a.u. mmHg-1 in HUT (P < 0.01). Thus, HUT produced differential effects on cardiac versus sympathetic BRS. The data suggest that dynamic baroreflex-mediated cardiovascular control is dominated by sympathetic control during baroreceptor unloading. Experimental Physiology (2003) 88.6, 769-774.