Conditional symbolic analysis detects nonlinear influences of respiration on cardiovascular control in humans

Alberto Porta, Andrea Marchi, Vlasta Bari, Karsten Heusser, Jens Tank, Jens Jordan, Franca Barbic, Raffaello Furlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We propose a symbolic analysis framework for the quantitative characterization of complex dynamical systems. It allows the description of the time course of a single variable, the assessment of joint interactions and an analysis triggered by a conditioning input. The framework was applied to spontaneous variability of heart period (HP), systolic arterial pressure (SAP) and integrated muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) with the aim of characterizing cardiovascular control and nonlinear influences of respiration at rest in supine position, during orthostatic challenge induced by 80° head-up tilt (TILT) and about 3 min before evoked pre-syncope signs (PRESY). The approach detected (i) the exaggerated sympathetic modulation and vagal withdrawal from HP variability and the increased presence of fast MSNA variability components during PRESY compared with TILT; (ii) the increase of the SAP-HP coordination occurring at slow temporal scales and a decrease of that occurring at faster time scales during PRESY compared with TILT; (iii) the reduction of the coordination between fast MSNA and SAP patterns during TILT and PRESY; (iv) the nonlinear influences of respiration leading to an increased likelihood to observe the abovementioned findings during expiration compared with inspiration one. The framework provided simple, quantitative indexes able to distinguish experimental conditions characterized by different states of the autonomic nervous system and to detect the early signs of a life threatening situation such as postural syncope.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2034
Publication statusPublished - Feb 13 2015


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Baroreflex
  • Head-up tilt
  • Heart rate variability
  • Muscle sympathetic nerve activity
  • Postural syncope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Engineering(all)


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