PMID: 10682236Feb 22, 2000Paper

Regulation of cardiac rhythm in hibernating mammals

Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part A, Molecular & Integrative Physiology
W K MilsomM B Harris

Abstract

The dramatic fall in heart rate exhibited by mammals entering hibernation begins before there is any noticeable fall in body temperature. The initial, progressive decrease in heart rate is the result of a cyclic parasympathetic activation that induces skipped beats and regular asystoles as well as slows the even heart beat. As body temperature subsequently falls, the parasympathetic influence is progressively withdrawn and periods of parasympathetic and sympathetic dominance alternate and give rise to regular periods of arrhythmia (tachycardia followed by bradycardia), and occasional long asystoles or periods of highly irregular cardiac activity. Superimposed on this is a vagally-mediated, respiratory sinus arrhythmia that is accentuated in species that breathe episodically. These events give way to a uniform heart rate in deep hibernation at low temperatures where both parasympathetic and sympathetic tone appear absent. The complete absence of tone is not a function of reduced temperature but is reflective of the state of deep, steady state hibernation. The elevation in heart rate that accompanies the onset of arousal is the result of dramatic increases in sympathetic activation that precede any increases in body temperature. ...Continue Reading

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