Heart rate variability in mice: a theoretical and practical guide

Exp Physiol. 2008 Jan;93(1):83-94. doi: 10.1113/expphysiol.2007.040733. Epub 2007 Oct 2.


The mouse is the animal model principally used to study biological processes in mammals. The mutation, overexpression or knockout of one or several genes can provide insight into human disease. In cardiovascular research, evaluation of autonomic nervous function is an essential tool for a better understanding of the pathophysiological conditions in which cardiomyopathy arises and develops. Analysis of heart rate variability is the least invasive method to evaluate the sympathovagal balance on the sino-atrial level. The need to perform this technique on freely moving mice emerged in the 1990s, but despite previous studies it has been difficult to set up and standardize a common protocol. The multitudes of techniques used, plus subtle differences in methodology, impede the comparison and clear interpretation of results. This article aims to make a survey of heart rate variability analysis and to establish a standardized protocol for the assessment of the autonomic neural regulation of heart rate in mice.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arrhythmia, Sinus / physiopathology
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electrocardiography / drug effects
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Telemetry