Effects of breathing control on cardiocirculatory modulation in Caucasian lowlanders and Himalayan Sherpas

C. Keyl, A. Schneider, R. E. Greene, C. Passino, G. Spadacini, G. Bandinelli, M. Bonfichi, L. Arcaini, L. Malcovati, L. Bernardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study was performed to investigate the influence of breathing control on the autonomic cardiac regulation at high altitude in adapted and non-adapted awake subjects. We recorded electrocardiogram and pulse oximetry in 14 short-term acclimatized lowlanders and 14 Himalayan Sherpas during resting conditions at an altitude of 5,050 m. Spectrum analysis was performed on synchronized 15 min periods of R-R intervals and the oxygen saturation of arterial blood (SaO2). Despite mean SaO2 being similar in lowlanders and Himalayan Sherpas [78.5 (SD 7.0)% compared to 79.4 (SD5.8)%, respectively], fluctuations in SaO2 were significantly increased in lowlanders compared to Sherpas, thus indicating an unstable regulation of respiration control in lowlanders. Regression analysis demonstrated a significant relationship between spectrum power of SaO2 and the relative power of R-R intervals in the frequency band between 0.01 and 0.08 Hz in lowlanders, but not in Sherpas. Our results demonstrate differences in respiratory and autonomic cardiac control between non-adapted lowlanders and Himalayan high-altitude residents and indicate that unstable breathing control during chronic hypobaric hypoxia is significantly correlated with the autonomic cardiocirculatory regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-486
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Heart rate variability
  • High altitude
  • Periodic breathing
  • Respiratory control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Physiology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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