Evidence for a respiratory component, similar to mammalian respiratory sinus arrhythmia, in the heart rate variability signal from the rattlesnake, Crotalus durissus terrificus

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2006-07-15

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Company of Biologists Ltd

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Autonomic control of heart rate variability and the central location of vagal preganglionic neurones (VPN) were examined in the rattlesnake ( Crotalus durissus terrificus), in order to determine whether respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) occurred in a similar manner to that described for mammals. Resting ECG signals were recorded in undisturbed snakes using miniature datalogging devices, and the presence of oscillations in heart rate (f(H)) was assessed by power spectral analysis (PSA). This mathematical technique provides a graphical output that enables the estimation of cardiac autonomic control by measuring periodic changes in the heart beat interval. At fH above 19 min(-1) spectra were mainly characterised by low frequency components, reflecting mainly adrenergic tonus on the heart. By contrast, at f(H) below 19 min(-1) spectra typically contained high frequency components, demonstrated to be cholinergic in origin. Snakes with a f(H) > 19 min(-1) may therefore have insufficient cholinergic tonus and/or too high an adrenergic tonus acting upon the heart for respiratory sinus arrhythmia ( RSA) to develop. A parallel study monitored f(Hd) simultaneously with the intraperitoneal pressures associated with lung inflation. Snakes with a fH < 19 min(-1) exhibited a high frequency (HF) peak in the power spectrum, which correlated with ventilation rate (f(V)). Adrenergic blockade by propranolol infusion increased the variability of the ventilation cycle, and the oscillatory component of the f(H) spectrum broadened accordingly. Infusion of atropine to effect cholinergic blockade abolished this HF component, confirming a role for vagal control of the heart in matching f(H) and f(V) in the rattlesnake. A neuroanatomical study of the brainstem revealed two locations for vagal preganglionic neurones (VPN). This is consistent with the suggestion that generation of ventilatory components in the heart rate variability (HRV) signal are dependent on spatially distinct loci for cardiac VPN. Therefore, this study has demonstrated the presence of RSA in the HRV signal and a dual location for VPN in the rattlesnake. We suggest there to be a causal relationship between these two observations.

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Journal of Experimental Biology. Cambridge: Company of Biologists Ltd, v. 209, n. 14, p. 2628-2636, 2006.

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