Spectral analysis of heart rate (HR) has been widely used to assess the autonomic cardiovascular control. A nonlinear approach, known as symbolic analysis, has been reported to be very useful to assess the autonomic control of cardiovascular system in humans, but very few studies reported on the differences between these two approaches on experimental models. Two distinct approaches were used to elicit autonomic changes in conscious Wistar rats: (1) pharmacological blockade of cardiac autonomic receptors with atenolol (ATE, N = 9) or methylatropine (ATR, N = 9) and (2) mild changes in arterial pressure (AP) induced by phenylephrine (PHE, N = 9) or sodium nitroprusside (NPS, N = 9). Series of cardiac interval (CI) and systolic AP (SAP) were assessed using spectral analysis and symbolic dynamics. Results show that, for spectral analysis, the power in high frequency band of CI and the power in low frequency band of SAP are the most reliable indices of vagal and sympathetic modulation, respectively. For symbolic analysis, results point 0V% and 1V% to be related to sympathetic and 2UV% to vagal modulation. Interestingly, the incidence of 1V patterns, hitherto with unknown meaning, was revealed the best index of sympathetic modulation in the rat and should be accounted for in the future studies.
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