Diving reflex: can the time course of heart rate reduction be quantified?

Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
Christian CaspersJ D Schipke


In this meta-analysis of diving bradycardia in humans, we sought to quantify any heart rate (HR) reduction using a relatively simple mathematical function. Using the terms "diving reflex,"diving bradycardia,"diving response,"diving plus heart rate," databases were searched. Data from the studies were fitted using HR=c+aexp(-(t-t(0))/τ), where c is the final HR, a is the HR decrease, τ is the time constant of HR decay, and t(0) is the time delay. Of 890 studies, 220 were given closer scrutiny. Only eight of these provided data obtained under comparable conditions. Apneic facial immersion decreased HR with τ=10.4 s and in air alone it was less pronounced and slower (τ=16.2 s). The exponential function fitted the time course of HR decrease closely (r(2)>0.93). The fit was less adequate for apneic-exercising volunteers. During apnea both with and without face immersion, HR decreases along a monoexponential function with a characteristic time constant. HR decrease during exercise with and without face immersion could not readily be described with a simple function: the parasympathetic reaction was partially offset by some sympathetic activity. Thus, we succeeded in quantifying the early time course of diving bradycardia. It is concl...Continue Reading


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