The purpose of my current project is to examine the cognitive control of the dive response and to determine the ability of seals to prepare their cardiovascular dive response in anticipation of two different dive lengths. The seals will be tested by placing the seal on a ramp that has heart rate sensors to monitor the heart rate. The seals will be trained to recognize different dive times: one will be much shorter than the dive time for the other. The data will be collected at Fjord & Belt center in Kerteminde, Denmark.
Pinnipeds are among several mammalian species that can dive underwater for long periods of time. This is accomplished with a physiological reaction known as the dive response. The dive response is a combination of peripheral vasocontraction, decreased blood flow to nonessential organs and muscles, and a decrease in heart rate. These reactions allow the animal to reduce the consumption of oxygen in the body and increase dive time. Previous research has compared the strength of the dive response with different water levels covering the mouth and nose, and different temperatures of water. They found an increase in the strength of the dive response when the head is placed deeper in water and in colder water. These results indicate that the sensors in the facial area are partially responsible for the dive response however, they also found a response when measuring without water, which suggests some cognitive control over the dive response.