Effects of water and ambient air temperatures on human diving bradycardia

  • Erika Schagatay
  • Boris Holm
Original Article


Upon apnoeic face immersion, humans develop a diving response resembling that found in diving mammals. There have been contradictory reports regarding the influence of water temperature on the magnitude of the resulting bradycardia. This study examined the influence of both water and ambient air temperatures on human diving bradycardia. A group of 23 volunteers performed three series of apnoeic episodes after 60-min exposure to air at temperatures of 10, 20 or 30°C. Oral and skin temperatures were measured during this exposure and during the subsequent test on 5 subjects. At 20°C air temperature oral and skin temperatures were measured on 10 subjects. Heart rate (HR) was recorded for the 23 subjects during apnoea in air and apnoea with the face immersed in water of 10, 20 or 30°C, at each air temperature. We found that both air and water temperatures had significant effects on immersion bradycardia, but in opposite directions. Face immersion in cold water after exposure to a high ambient air temperature induced the most pronounced bradycardia. We further observed that exposure to different ambient air temperatures resulted in different patterns of HR response to water temperature. The range in which the response was positively correlated to water temperature differed at 30°C ambient air from that at 10 and 20°C ambient air. We concluded from these studies that human bradycardia resulting from apnoeic face immersion is inversely proportional to water temperature within a range which is determined by the ambient air temperature. Thus, the interval in which the response to cold stimulation varies with temperature, would appear to be determined by the ambient temperature before stimulation.

Key words

Diving response Apnoea Face immersion Bradycardia Temperature 


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Copyright information

© springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erika Schagatay
    • 1
  • Boris Holm
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Animal PhysiologyUniversity of LundLundSweden

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