Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Carol Britson

Relational Format



There are issues concerning the amount of learning that actually takes place in the laboratory environment, and whether or not it is worth the investment of money, resources, and time. A laboratory protocol was designed to examine the human dive response, with the goals of generating multiple robust variables, creating a truly integrative laboratory experiment and improving lab education. The objectives of this exercise were to promote critical thinking, maximize collaboration, minimize social loafing and student engagement, promote critical thinking, and meet as many of the National Science Foundation's core competencies and assess effectiveness in achieving these objectives. The dive response, which occurs during cold-water dives and voluntary breath holds, is a series of cardiac, respiratory, and vascular reflexes that conserve oxygen for the heart and brain. The protocol was designed to be performed easily by the 18 volunteers who participated in this study. Pre-laboratory survey questions asked participants if they understood the information from the literature review (12 of 18 strongly agreed, X2=29.22, df=4, α=9.488), understanding of the desired student learning objectives (15 of 18 strongly agreed, X2=47, df=4, α=9.488), and enthusiasm about completing the lab exercise (9 of 18 strongly agreed, X2=13.67, df=4, α=9.488). Students performed three separate breath holds, one out of water, one immersed in cold water, and one out of water directly after physical exercise. Students measured the following variables: length of breath hold, lung volume, carbon dioxide concentration in expired air, peripheral systemic oxygen saturation, pulse amplitude, pulse rate, R-wave amplitude, and QT interval. The drop in pulse rate was significant (p(2,9)=0.00652), making it a robust variable, with the average baseline pulse rate dropping from 87.2 bpm to 66.9 bpm during cold-water facial immersion. The other variables measured were not significant, including oxygen saturation and QT interval. The experiment was not deemed integrative, as multiple robust variables are necessary for an integrative experiment. Participants analyzed the measured variables data in order to answer a set of post-laboratory discussion questions. These discussion questions were given to each participant to assess if the students understood the mechanistic and teleological mechanisms behind the responses. Post-laboratory surveys asked students to report if they thought they had learned the information (10 of 18 strongly agreed, X2=17, df=4, α=9.488), if they believed the lab would be helpful for an upper level physiology course (13 of 18 strongly agreed, X2=33.67, df=4, α=9.488), and if they enjoyed the exercise and found it engaging (11 of 18 strongly agreed, X2=20.89, df=4, α=9.488). My objectives for this experiment as an integrative laboratory exercise were partially met. I have suggested modifications on portions of the exercise that were not successful. By incorporating these suggestions, this activity could become an exercise used to progress physiology education based on survey, discussion question, and dive response data collected.

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