Cardiorespiratory interactions to external stimuli

L. Bernardi, C. Porta, L. Spicuzza, P. Sleight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Respiration is a powerful modulator of heart rate variability, and of baro- or chemo-reflex sensitivity. This occurs via a mechanical effect of breathing that synchronizes all cardiovascular variables at the respiratory rhythm, particularly when this occurs at a particular slow rate coincident with the Mayer waves in arterial pressure (approximately 6 cycles/min). Recitation of the rosary prayer (or of most mantras), induces a marked enhancement of these slow rhythms, whereas random verbalization or random breathing does not. This phenomenon in turn increases baroreflex sensitivity and reduces chemoreflex sensitivity, leading to increases in parasympathetic and reductions in sympathetic activity. The opposite can be seen during either verbalization or mental stress tests. Qualitatively similar effects can be obtained even by passive listening to more or less rhythmic auditory stimuli, such as music, and the speed of the rhythm (rather than the style) appears to be one of the main determinants of the cardiovascular and respiratory responses. These findings have clinical relevance. Appropriate modulation of breathing, can improve/restore autonomic control of cardiovascular and respiratory systems in relevant diseases such as hypertension and heart failure, and might therefore help improving exercise tolerance, quality of life, and ultimately, survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-221
Number of pages7
JournalArchives Italiennes de Biologie
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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