, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 28-51
Date: 03 May 2007

Heart rate variability in rodents: uses and caveats in toxicological studies

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Abstract

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of cardiac pacing dynamics that has recently garnered a great deal of interest in environmental health studies. While the use of these measures has become popular, much uncertainty remains in the interpretation of results, both in terms of human and animal research. In humans, HRV endpoints, specifically chronic alterations in baseline HRV patterns, have been reasonably well characterized as prognostic indicators of adverse outcomes for a variety of diseases. However, such information is lacking for reversible HRV changes that may be induced by short-term exposures to environmental toxicants. Furthermore, there are minimal substantive data, either acute or chronic, regarding the pathological interpretation or prognostic value of toxicant-induced changes in HRV in rodents. The present report summarizes the physiological and clinical aspects of HRV, the methodological processes for obtaining these endpoints, and previous human and animal studies in the field of environmental health. Furthermore, we include a discussion of important caveats and recommendations for the interpretation of HRV data in animal research.

This paper has been reviewed by the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory and the National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and approved for publication. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.