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Changes in resting heart rate variability across the menstrual cycle

Authors

  • Matthew S. Tenan,

    1. Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA
    2. United States Army Research Laboratory—Human Research and Engineering Directorate, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, USA
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  • R. Matthew Brothers,

    1. Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA
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  • Andrew J. Tweedell,

    1. Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA
    2. Endocrine Section—Applied Physiology Laboratory, Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
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  • Anthony C. Hackney,

    1. Endocrine Section—Applied Physiology Laboratory, Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
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  • Lisa Griffin

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA
    • Address correspondence to: Lisa Griffin, Ph.D., Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, Bellmont 222, 1 University Station, D3700. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA. E-mail: l.griffin@austin.utexas.edu

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  • M. S. Tenan is supported in full by the Department of Defense SMART Scholarship Program. This study is supported in part by the University of Texas Undergraduate Research Fellowship granted to A. J. Tweedel. The authors would like to express their gratitude towards all study participants. Shannon Owens provided graphic design services. Ashley Westrum and Shelly Duke were invaluable research assistants for this study. We would also like to acknowledge the anonymous reviewers who have invested considerable time and effort to create the best manuscript possible. The results of this present study do not constitute endorsement by the U.S. Department of Defense

Abstract

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a noninvasive indicator of autonomic control. This study examines HRV changes across a normal menstrual cycle and proposes a novel piecewise function controlling for the effects of breathing on HRV spectral parameters. A resting ECG was collected from 13 women at five points in their menstrual cycle. Both heart rate and breathing rate increased across the cycle (p < .01) while time-domain variability decreased (p = .04). Use of the piecewise function for breathing rate in HRV spectral analysis was confirmed by a substantial increase in model goodness-of-fit. HRV spectral parameters, controlled for breathing with the piecewise function, confirm that the decrease in variability is likely due to a parasympathetic withdrawal, since high frequency HRV decreases (p = .02).

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