Aging reduces complexity of heart rate variability assessed by conditional entropy and symbolic analysis

Anielle C M Takahashi, Alberto Porta, Ruth C. Melo, Robison J. Quitério, Ester da Silva, Audrey Borghi-Silva, Eleonora Tobaldini, Nicola Montano, Aparecida M. Catai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Increasing age is associated with a reduction in overall heart rate variability as well as changes in complexity of physiologic dynamics. The aim of this study was to verify if the alterations in autonomic modulation of heart rate caused by the aging process could be detected by Shannon entropy (SE), conditional entropy (CE) and symbolic analysis (SA). Complexity analysis was carried out in 44 healthy subjects divided into two groups: old (n = 23, 63 ± 3 years) and young group (n = 21, 23 ± 2). It was analyzed SE, CE [complexity index (CI) and normalized CI (NCI)] and SA (0V, 1V, 2LV and 2ULV patterns) during short heart period series (200 cardiac beats) derived from ECG recordings during 15 min of rest in a supine position. The sequences characterized by three heart periods with no significant variations (0V), and that with two significant unlike variations (2ULV) reflect changes in sympathetic and vagal modulation, respectively. The unpaired t test (or Mann-Whitney rank sum test when appropriate) was used in the statistical analysis. In the aging process, the distributions of patterns (SE) remain similar to young subjects. However, the regularity is significantly different; the patterns are more repetitive in the old group (a decrease of CI and NCI). The amounts of pattern types are different: 0V is increased and 2LV and 2ULV are reduced in the old group. These differences indicate marked change of autonomic regulation. The CE and SA are feasible techniques to detect alteration in autonomic control of heart rate in the old group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-235
Number of pages7
JournalInternal and Emergency Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • Aging
  • Conditional entropy
  • Heart rate variability
  • Nonlinear analysis
  • Symbolic analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Internal Medicine

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