Role of the autonomic nervous system in generating non-linear dynamics in short-term heart period variability

Alberto Porta, Stefano Guzzetti, Ester Borroni, Raffaello Furlan, Nicola Montano, Alberto Malliani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We evaluated the role played by the autonomic nervous system in producing non-linear dynamics in short heart period variability (HPV) series recorded in healthy young humans. Non-linear dynamics are detected using an index of predictability based on a local non-linear predictor and a surrogate data approach. Different types of surrogates are utilized: (i) phase-randomized Fourier-transform based (FT) data; (ii) amplitude-adjusted FT (AAFT) data; and (iii) iteratively refined AAFT (IAAFT) data of two types (IAAFT-1 and IAAFT-2). The approach was applied to experimental protocols activating or blocking the sympathetic or parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system or periodically perturbing cardiovascular control via paced respiration at different breathing rates. We found that short-term HPV was mostly linear at rest. Experimental protocols activating the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system did not produce non-linear dynamics. In contrast, paced respiration, especially at slow breathing rates, elicited significantly non-linear dynamics. Therefore, in short-term HPV (∼300 beats) the use of non-linear models is not supported by the data, except under conditions whereby the subject is constrained to a slow respiratory rate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-177
Number of pages4
JournalBiomedizinische Technik
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2006


  • Cardiovascular control
  • Complexity
  • Local non-linear prediction
  • Surrogate data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Health Informatics


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