The stress of chess players as a model to study the effects of psychological stimuli on physiological responses: an example of substrate oxidation and heart rate variability in man
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We have studied the physiological consequences of the tension caused by playing chess in 20 male chess players, by following heart rate, heart rate variability, and respiratory variables. We observed significant increase in the heart rate (75–86 beats/min), in the ratio low frequency (LF)/high frequency (HF) of heart rate variability (1.3–3.0) and also a decrease in mean heart rate variability with no changes in HF throughout the game. These results suggest a stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system with no changes in the parasympathetic system. The respiratory exchange ratio was rather elevated (over 0.89) at the start and significantly decreased during the game (0.75 at the end), indicating that energy expenditure progressively switched from carbohydrate to lipid oxidation. The changes in substrate oxidation and the sympathetic system seem to be due to high cognitive demands and bring new insight into adaptations to mental strain.
KeywordsChess Heart rate variability Indirect calorimetry Psychological crossover concept Psychological stress Substrate oxidation
The study was partly supported by the Chess League of Limousin, France. The authors are very grateful for the volunteers who were all very excited to participate and the League of Limousin that encouraged this research. The Conseil Général de la Vienne is also thanked for inspiring our collaboration with research laboratories of the Oulu region (Finland) and for giving a traveling grant (BD).
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