2000 Volume 50 Issue 1 Pages 33-39
To examine whether the high-frequency (HF) component of heart rate variability (HRV) reflects fluctuation or tonic level of vagal outflow, we investigated the effects of vagal efferent nerve stimulation (VS) on the heart rate and HRV in anesthetized open-chest rabbit under artificial respiration at a rate of 52 breaths/min (0.86 Hz). A power spectral analysis was performed at baseline and during VS (stimuli at 2 ms, 1–10 V and 5–25 Hz). VS was applied using two different patterns. The first was constant VS; continuous stimulation at graded frequency or voltage to simulate changes in the level of vagal "tone." The second pattern was intermittent VS; stimulation at 0.5 Hz of on-off cycle to simulate fluctuations in vagal efferent activity. The power spectrum at baseline showed a single narrow component at 0.86 Hz, identical to respiration rate. Both the constant and intermittent VS prolonged RR interval. The amplitude of the component at 0.86 Hz remained unaffected by either the constant or intermittent VS, whereas the latter evoked a distinct narrow component at 0.5 Hz, reflecting the on-off cycle of intermittent VS. Our results suggest that the HF component of the power spectrum of HRV measures the magnitude of fluctuations of vagal input associated with respiratory modulation.