Using stimulation of the diving reflex in humans to teach integrative physiology

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Abstract

During underwater submersion, the body responds by conserving O2 and prioritizing blood flow to the brain and heart. These physiological adjustments, which involve the nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems, are known as the diving response and provide an ideal example of integrative physiology. The diving reflex can be stimulated in the practical laboratory setting using breath holding and facial immersion in water. Our undergraduate physiology students complete a laboratory class in which they investigate the effects of stimulating the diving reflex on cardiovascular variables, which are recorded and calculated with a Finapres finger cuff. These variables include heart rate, cardiac output, stroke volume, total peripheral resistance, and arterial pressures (mean, diastolic, and systolic). Components of the diving reflex are stimulated by 1) facial immersion in cold water (15 degrees C), 2) breathing with a snorkel in cold water (15 degrees C), 3) facial immersion in warm water (30 degrees C), and 4) breath holding in air. Statistical analysis of the data generated for each of these four maneuvers allows the students to consider the factors that contribute to the diving response, such as the temperature of the water and the location of the sensory receptors that initiate the response. In addition to providing specific details about the equipment, protocols, and learning outcomes, this report describes how we assess this practical exercise and summarizes some common student misunderstandings of the essential physiological concepts underlying the diving response.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355 - 365
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
Volume38
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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