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PhD Position in Heart Rate Variability, Dynamics and Control During Exercise (SNSF)

Project Title: Heart Rate Variability, Dynamics and Control During Exercise

Funded by: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

Principal Investigator:  Prof. Dr. Kenneth J. Hunt (

Start date: 1 October 2019 (or by negotiation)

Duration: 4 years

This project will investigate the natural, physiological phenomenon known as heart rate variability (HRV). HRV arises from the regulatory activities of the autonomic nervous system which causes fluctuations in heart rate (HR) over short and long timescales. It is important to better understand the characteristics of HRV, and to develop accurate and robust systems for automatic control of HR for various exercise modalities such as cycle ergometry and treadmill exercise. This is because HR is a convenient-to-use variable that is widely adopted to characterise exercise intensity and to prescribe exercise-training and rehabilitation programmes.

The principal aim of the project is to elucidate and better understand the characteristics of HRV during prolonged exercise and to use this knowledge to optimise the design of automatic HR control systems. To achieve this aim, we will investigate changes in HRV in relation to exercise intensity and duration, we will develop dynamics models and controllers for HR, and we will carry out a clinical feasibility study of HR control in patients with neurological impairment following stroke.

Improved understanding of HRV and the availability of better HR control systems will meet a perceived need amongst practitioners in the exercise physiology, healthcare and industrial fields for accurate and robust HR control systems. This will bring benefits in the prescription of training programmes in healthy individuals and in patients with various health conditions. This work therefore has potential to positively impact on the quality of life of these end-users.


K. J. Hunt and J. Saengsuwan, “Changes  in  heart  rate  variability  with  respect  to  exercise intensity and time during treadmill running,” BioMedical Engineering OnLine, vol. 17:128, 2018.

K. J. Hunt and S. Gerber, “A generalised stochastic optimal control formulation for heart  rate regulation during treadmill exercise,” Systems  Science & Control Engineering, vol. 5:1, pp. 481–494, 2017.

J. Riedo and K. J. Hunt, “Feedback control  of  heart  rate  during  robotics-assisted  end-effector-based stair climbing,” Systems Science & Control Engineering, vol. 4:1, pp. 223–234,  2016.

K. J. Hunt and S. E. Fankhauser, “Heart rate control during treadmill exercise using input-sensitivity shaping for disturbance rejection of very-low-frequency heart rate variability,” Biomed. Signal Process. Control, vol. 30, pp. 31–42, 2016.

K. J. Hunt, S. E. Fankhauser, and J. Saengsuwan, “Identification of heart rate dynamics during moderate-to-vigorous treadmill exercise,” BioMedical Engineering OnLine, vol. 14:117, 2015.


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