PhD in HRV and performance in athletes

Posted on April 12, 2010


Now is a great time to think about a PhD.

The University of Canberra has a number of PhD scholarships to suitable candidates for those that can meet an enrolment deadline of 18th June 2010.

You can read more about studying a PhD at UCNISS here.

Specifically, with an industry partner, we are looking for students wanting to investigate heart rate variability and performance in athletes.


Heart rate variability refers to the regulation of the sinoatrial node, the natural pacemaker of the heart by the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system. Changes in heart rate variability may be due to alterations in either sympathetic or vagal tone or more likely a combination of both. The sympathetic and vagus activity constantly interact to produce the overall effect. Vagal influences exceed the sympathetic effects although the vagal impulse is brief because acetylcholine in the sinus node is rapidly hydrolysed. There are however a number of factors that can influence the autonomic nervous system which is also subject to a circadian rhythm.

Heart rate variability assessments are used to monitor fatigue, recovery, performance trends and training requirements. A daily assessment is conducted each morning, with the corresponding analysis looking at the variation between consecutive beats as a means of monitoring sympathetic and para-sympathetic tone.Traditionally, resting heart rate (RHR) has been used to give a guide to recovery. However, with so many external factors easily affecting RHR, more effective and reliable methods are required. Practically, this information has been used to provide a report back to the coach / athlete on the athlete’s current state of fatigue and a recommended training direction based on this information.

There is limited research to support the use of HRV in this way. It is anticipated that the PhD candidate would establish a research program to look further into HRV in relation to monitoring training and predicting performance.

You can read more about the opportunity here.

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