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Effects of paced respiration on heart period and heart period variability

    • Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 May 2000


The present study investigated psychophysiological responses to paced respiration of different frequencies. Twenty men and 20 women (mean age: 24.3 years) underwent five breathing conditions (paced with 0.15 Hz, 0.20 Hz, 0.25 Hz, 0.30 Hz, and unpaced), each lasting 5 min. As dependent physiological measures heart period, and different heart period variability (HPV) parameters were assessed. Psychological variables consisted of mood estimates as well as rated accuracy and effort to follow the pacing rhythm. HPV decreased with higher breathing frequencies, under paced and unpaced conditions, whereas mood ratings did not change. Subjects indicated more effort and less accuracy in following the pacing signal, the more its frequency differed from their spontaneous breathing frequency. The comparison of a spontaneous breathing condition with a frequency-matched paced condition revealed that pacing per se provoked a reduction in heart period. Because this decrease was not accompanied by changes in any of the HPV frequency components, their validity as measures of autonomic control needs to be questioned.


Corresponding author

Address reprint requests to: Dr. Rudolf Stark, Department of Clinical and Physiological Psychology, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Otto-Behaghel-Str. 10, 35394 Giessen, Germany. E-mail: Rudolf.Stark@Psychol.Uni-Giessen.De.
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  • ISSN: 0048-5772
  • EISSN: 1469-8986
  • URL: /core/journals/psychophysiology
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