Causal relationships between heart period and systolic arterial pressure during graded head-up tilt

Alberto Porta, Aparecida M. Catai, Anielle C M Takahashi, Valentina Magagnin, Tito Bassani, Eleonora Tobaldini, Philippe Van De Borne, Nicola Montano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In physiological conditions, heart period (HP) affects systolic arterial pressure (SAP) through diastolic runoff and Starling's law, but, the reverse relation also holds as a result of the continuous action of baroreflex control. The prevailing mechanism sets the dominant temporal direction in the HP-SAP interactions (i.e., causality). We exploited cross-conditional entropy to assess HP-SAP causality. A traditional approach based on phases was applied for comparison. The ability of the approach to detect the lack of causal link from SAP to HP was assessed on 8 short-term (STHT) and 11 long-term heart transplant (LTHT) recipients (i.e., less than and more than 2 yr after transplantation, respectively). In addition, spontaneous HP and SAP variabilities were extracted from 17 healthy humans (ages 21-36 yr, median age 29 yr; 9 females) at rest and during graded head-up tilt. The tilt table inclinations ranged from 15 to 75° and were changed in steps of 15°. All subjects underwent recordings at every step in random order. The approach detected the lack of causal relation from SAP to HP in STHT recipients and the gradual restoration of the causal link from SAP to HP with time after transplantation in the LTHT recipients. The head-up tilt protocol induced the progressive shift from the prevalent causal direction from HP to SAP to the reverse causality (i.e., from SAP to HP) with tilt table inclination in healthy subjects. Transformation of phases into time shifts and comparison with baroreflex latency supported this conclusion. The proposed approach is highly efficient because it does not require the knowledge of baroreflex latency. The dependence of causality on tilt table inclination suggests that "spontaneous" baroreflex sensitivity estimated using noncausal methods (e.g., spectral and cross-spectral approaches) is more reliable at the highest tilt table inclinations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Cardiovascular control
  • Conditional entropy
  • Heart transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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