• synonyms

diving reflex

noun Physiology.

a reflex of humans, other mammals, reptiles, and birds, triggered by immersion in cold water, that slows the heart rate and diverts blood flow to the brain, heart, and lungs: serves to conserve oxygen until breathing resumes and to delay potential brain damage.


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Nearby words

diving board, diving boat, diving duck, diving goiter, diving petrel, diving reflex, diving suit, divining rod, divinity, divinity school, divinize

Origin of diving reflex

First recorded in 1975–80 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Medicine definitions for diving reflex

diving reflex


A reflexive response to diving in many aquatic mammals and birds, characterized by physiological changes that decrease oxygen consumption, such as slowed heart rate and decreased blood flow to the abdominal organs and muscles, until breathing resumes. Though less pronounced, the reflex also occurs in humans, upon submersion in water.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.