Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Heart Rate as a Vital Sign

Figure from experiment 3 from Human Physiology with Vernier


Since the earliest days of medicine, heart rate has been recognized as a vital sign (an indicator of health, disease, excitement, and stress). Medical personnel use heart rate to provide clues as to the presence of many medical conditions. Reflex changes in heart rate are one of the body’s most basic mechanisms for maintaining proper perfusion to the brain and other tissues. Low blood volume caused by bleeding or dehydration results in the heart beating faster as it attempts to maintain adequate blood pressure. Excitement, stress, and anxiety activate the autonomic nervous system, which may also speed the heart rate and raise blood pressure.

In this experiment, you will observe how the heart responds to cold stimulus applied peripherally. In this case, cold will act as a noxious stimulus, activating the “fight or flight” response through the sympathetic nervous system.


In this experiment, you will

  • Obtain graphical representation of heart rate.
  • Compare heart rate before and after exposure to cold stimulus.
  • Observe an example of sympathetic nervous system activation ("fight or flight response").

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 »

Experiment 3 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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