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Effect of Coughing on Heart Rate

Figure from experiment 6 from Human Physiology with Vernier


Involuntary coughing is the result of irritation of special sensory nerves in the respiratory tract. This helps to clear potentially damaging substances from the lungs (water, foreign bodies, dust, infection, mucous, etc.). Coughing can be more deleterious than helpful, causing discomfort, preventing sleep, or leading, in some cases, to dizziness or loss of consciousness (known as cough syncope).

The physiologic effects resulting from a cough are numerous. There is marked increase in intrathoracic pressure just prior to expulsion of air. When blood pressure is normal, this leads to a decrease in venous return to the right side of the heart and a decrease in cardiac output. On the other hand, a cough-induced increase in intrathoracic pressure may provide a form of “internal cardiopulmonary resuscitation” in a heart attack victim whose blood pressure is falling dangerously low. In this case, coughing can be as effective as the external chest compressions of CPR in raising blood pressure and providing better blood circulation to vital tissues.

In this experiment, you will observe the response of heart rate to coughing, and correlate this response to activity in the autonomic nervous systems.


In this experiment, you will

  • Obtain graphical representation of the heart rate at rest.
  • Observe the change in heart rate that occurs with repetitive coughing.
  • Correlate heart rate response to autonomic nervous system activity.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Standards Correlations

See all standards correlations for Human Physiology with Vernier »

Human Physiology with Vernier

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Warming Function of Nasal Passageways
2Effect of Vascularity on Skin Temperature Recovery
3Heart Rate as a Vital Sign
4Heart Rate and Exercise
5Heart Rate Response to Baroreceptor Feedback
6Effect of Coughing on Heart Rate
7Blood Pressure as a Vital Sign
8Blood Pressure and Exercise
9Diurnal Blood Pressure Variation
10Heart Rate and Blood Pressure as Vital Signs
11Heart Rate, Blood Pressure, and Exercise
12Analyzing the Heart with EKG
13Introduction to EMG
14ANeuromuscular Reflexes (with Accelerometer)
14BNeuromuscular Reflexes (without Accelerometer)
15Muscle Function Analysis
16Grip Strength Comparison
17Grip Strength and Muscle Fatigue
18EMG and Muscle Fatigue
19Lung Volumes and Capacities
20Respiratory Response to Physiologic Challenges
21Analysis of Lung Function
22Oxygen and Aerobic Metabolism
23Oxygen Extraction by the Lungs
24Effect of "Dead Space" on Oxygen Exchange

Experiment 6 from Human Physiology with Vernier Lab Book

<i>Human Physiology with Vernier</i> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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Dev Reference: VST0191

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