Cardiovascular Toxicology

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 28–51

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

  • William H. RowanIII
  • Matthew J. Campen
  • Lindsay B. Wichers
  • William P. Watkinson


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.


Rat Mouse HRV SDNN Frequency domain Air pollution Particulate matter 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • William H. RowanIII
    • 1
  • Matthew J. Campen
    • 2
  • Lindsay B. Wichers
    • 3
  • William P. Watkinson
    • 1
  1. 1.Pulmonary Toxicology Branch, Experimental Toxicology Division, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and DevelopmentU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyNCUSA
  2. 2.Toxicology DivisionLovelace Respiratory Research InstituteAlbuquerqueUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Media Assessment Group, National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and DevelopmentU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyNorth CarolinaUSA

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