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In marine mammals the diving response (the trigeminal nerve reflex) which prompts the body to conserve oxygen when the face is immersed in water is very strong and enables some animals to dive for impressive durations.


In the podcast below, lead author Dr James Fisher of the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences discusses how this reflex might be related to human physiology. 

Dr Fisher used ice packs applied to the face to stimulate the trigeminal nerve, and added handgrip exercise to evaluate whether excessive excitation of the sympathetic nervous system could result. Could the results of this study have implications for elite breath-hold divers, for recreational divers, or for patient populations who want to participate in water sports?

Listen and find out.

Read the full article on the American Journal of Physiology website.