The diving response and cardiac vagal activity: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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This article aimed to synthesize the various triggers of the diving response and
to perform a meta-analysis assessing their effects on cardiac vagal activity. The
protocol was preregistered on PROSPERO (CRD42021231419; 01.07.2021). A
systematic and meta-analytic review of cardiac vagal activity was conducted,
indexed with the root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) in the
context of the diving response. The search on MEDLINE (via PubMed), Web of
Science, ProQuest and PsycNet was finalized on November 6th, 2021. Studies
with human participants were considered, measuring RMSSD pre-and during and/or post-exposure to at least one trigger of the diving response. Seventeen papers (n = 311) met inclusion criteria. Triggers examined include face immersion or cooling, SCUBA diving, and total body immersion into water. Compared to resting conditions, a significant moderate to large positive effect was found for RMSSD during exposure (Hedges' g = 0.59, 95% CI 0.36 to 0.82, p < .001), but not post-exposure (g = 0.11, 95% CI −0.14 to 0.36, p = .34). Among the considered moderators, total body immersion had a significantly larger effect than forehead cooling (QM = 23.46, df = 1, p < .001). No further differences were detected. Limitations were the small number of studies included, heterogenous triggers, few participants and low quality of evidence. Further research is needed to investigate the role of cardiac sympathetic activity and of the moderators.
Original languageGerman
Article numbere14183
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 11.10.2022

ID: 9743602


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