The aim of this study was to determine the mechanism(s) responsible for the persistence of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) during central apnea. In five awake dogs, heart rate (HR) was recorded during constant mechanical ventilation (MV) and during central apneas produced by cessation of MV. For each of 10 control ventilator cycles before MV was stopped, instantaneous HR was plotted against the time from the onset of lung inflation; the fundamental and first harmonic of a sine wave (at the ventilator frequency) was then fitted to the HR data. For the control cycles, the mean r2 from the curve fits was 0.57 +/- 0.07, showing that a significant component of the HR variability was linked to the ventilator cycle. After MV was stopped, RSA persisted and only by the third "phantom" ventilator cycle during apnea had the degree of fit consistently decreased compared with control dogs (P < 0.02). The persistence of ventilator-linked RSA at the onset of central apnea supports the concept of a "memory" in the respiratory system. Toward the end of central apnea, HR variability reappeared and had the periodicity and rhythmic profile of RSA on 81% of occasions. The presence of RSA-like activity toward the end of central apnea suggests that subthreshold rhythmic respiratory-related activity may be present even before the onset of detectable lung volume changes.
- Copyright © 1995 the American Physiological Society