Controlled breathing protocols probe human autonomic cardiovascular rhythms

Am J Physiol. 1998 Feb;274(2 Pt 2):H709-18. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.1998.274.2.h709.


The purpose of this study was to determine how breathing protocols requiring varying degrees of control affect cardiovascular dynamics. We measured inspiratory volume, end-tidal CO2, R-R interval, and arterial pressure spectral power in 10 volunteers who followed the following 5 breathing protocols: 1) uncontrolled breathing for 5 min; 2) stepwise frequency breathing (at 0.3, 0.25, 0.2, 0.15, 0.1, and 0.05 Hz for 2 min each); 3) stepwise frequency breathing as above, but with prescribed tidal volumes; 4) random-frequency breathing (approximately 0.5-0.05 Hz) for 6 min; and 5) fixed-frequency breathing (0.25 Hz) for 5 min. During stepwise breathing, R-R interval and arterial pressure spectral power increased as breathing frequency decreased. Control of inspired volume reduced R-R interval spectral power during 0.1 Hz breathing (P < 0.05). Stepwise and random-breathing protocols yielded comparable coherence and transfer functions between respiration and R-R intervals and systolic pressure and R-R intervals. Random- and fixed-frequency breathing reduced end-tidal CO2 modestly (P < 0.05). Our data suggest that stringent tidal volume control attenuates low-frequency R-R interval oscillations and that fixed- and random-rate breathing may decrease CO2 chemoreceptor stimulation. We conclude that autonomic rhythms measured during different breathing protocols have much in common but that a stepwise protocol without stringent control of inspired volume may allow for the most efficient assessment of short-term respiratory-mediated autonomic oscillations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Periodicity
  • Respiration / physiology*
  • Tidal Volume