A network physiology approach to the assessment of the link between sinoatrial and ventricular cardiac controls

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Objective: A network physiology approach to evaluate the strength of the directed interactions among cardiac controls at sinoatrial and ventricular levels and respiration (R) is proposed. Approach: The network is composed of three nodes (i.e. sinoatrial and ventricular cardiac controls and R) and their activity is exemplified by the variability of heart period (HP), the variability of the duration of the electrical activity of the heart approximated as the temporal distance between Q-wave onset and T-wave end or apex (i.e. QTe or QTa) and thoracic movements respectively. Model-based transfer entropy provided the estimate of the strength of the causal link from the source to the destination conditioned on the remaining node activity. The interactions were monitored in 15 healthy subjects aged from 24 to 54 years (9 males). Increasing levels of sympathetic activity were induced by graded head-up tilt with table inclination of 0, 15, 30, 45, 60, 75°. Main results: We found that: (i) the strength of the causal link from HP to QTe gradually decreases with tilt table angle, while that in the reverse direction is weak, even though significant, and constant; (ii) the action of R on HP is stronger than that from R to QTe; (iii) the strength of the relation from R to HP is weakly related to tilt table inclination, while that from R to QTe does not depend on it; (iv) while QTe cannot affect R, a weak causal dependence of R on HP is detected; (v) the network computed over QTa is qualitatively similar to that over QTe, even though the strength of the causal relations might be different. Significance: The proposed network physiology approach provides a comprehensive picture of the directed links among relevant cardiac regulatory mechanisms and their evolution with sympathetic tone usable to identify pathological conditions. © 2017 Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1472-1489
Number of pages18
JournalPhysiological Measurement
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • autonomic nervous system
  • head-up tilt
  • heart rate variability
  • multivariate linear regression model
  • QT interval
  • QT-RR relationship
  • transfer entropy
  • adult
  • breathing
  • female
  • heart atrium function
  • heart rate
  • heart ventricle function
  • human
  • male
  • middle aged
  • physiology
  • young adult
  • Adult
  • Atrial Function
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration
  • Ventricular Function
  • Young Adult


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