Limits of permutation-based entropies in assessing complexity of short heart period variability

Alberto Porta, Vlasta Bari, Andrea Marchi, Beatrice De Maria, Paolo Castiglioni, Marco Di Rienzo, Stefano Guzzetti, Andrei Cividjian, Luc Quintin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study compares permutation-based and coarse-grained entropy approaches for the assessment of complexity of short heart period (HP) variability recordings. Shannon permutation entropy (SPE) and conditional permutation entropy (CPE) are computed as examples of permutation-based entropies, while the k-nearest neighbor conditional entropy (KNNCE) is calculated as an example of coarse-grained conditional entropy. SPE, CPE and KNNCE were applied to ad-hoc simulated autoregressive processes corrupted by increasing amounts of broad band noise and to real HP variability series recorded after complete vagal blockade obtained via administration of a high dose of atropine (AT) in nine healthy volunteers and during orthostatic challenge induced by 90° head-up tilt (T90) in 15 healthy individuals. Over the simulated series the performances of SPE and CPE degraded more rapidly with the amplitude of the superimposed broad band noise than those of KNNCE. Over real data KNNCE identified the expected decrease of the HP variability complexity both after AT and during T90. Conversely SPE and CPE detected the decrease of HP variability complexity solely during T90 as a likely result of the more favorable signal-to-noise ratio during T90 than after AT. Results derived from both simulations and real data indicated that permutation-based entropies had a larger susceptibility to broad band noise than KNNCE. We recommend caution in applying permutation-based entropies in presence of short HP variability series characterized by a low signal-to-noise ratio.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-765
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiological Measurement
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2015


  • atropine
  • autonomic nervous system
  • cardiovascular control
  • conditional entropy
  • head-up tilt
  • heart rate variability
  • permutation entropy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Medicine(all)


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