Univariate and multivariate conditional entropy measures for the characterization of short-term cardiovascular complexity under physiological stress

M. Valente, M. Javorka, A. Porta, V. Bari, J. Krohova, B. Czippelova, Z. Turianikova, G. Nollo, L. Faes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: A defining feature of physiological systems under the neuroautonomic regulation is their dynamical complexity. The most common approach to assess physiological complexity from short-term recordings, i.e. to compute the rate of entropy generation of an individual system by means of measures of conditional entropy (CE), does not consider that complexity may change when the investigated system is part of a network of physiological interactions. This study aims at extending the concept of short-term complexity towards the perspective of network physiology, defining multivariate CE measures whereby multiple physiological processes are accounted for in the computation of entropy rates. Approach: Univariate and multivariate CE measures are computed using state-of-the-art methods for entropy estimation and applied to time series of heart period (H), systolic (S) and diastolic (D) arterial pressure, and respiration (R) variability measured in healthy subjects monitored in a resting state and during conditions of postural and mental stress. Main results: Compared with the traditional univariate metric of short-term complexity, multivariate measures provide additional information with plausible physiological interpretation, such as (i) the dampening of respiratory sinus arrhythmia and activation of the baroreflex control during postural stress; (ii) the increased complexity of heart period and blood pressure variability during mental stress, reflecting the effect of respiratory influences and upper cortical centers; (iii) the strong influence of D on S, mediated by left ventricular ejection fraction and vascular properties; (iv) the role of H in reducing the complexity of D, related to cardiac run-off effects; and (v) the unidirectional role of R in influencing cardiovascular variability. Significance: Our results document the importance of employing a network perspective in the evaluation of the short-term complexity of cardiovascular and respiratory dynamics across different physiological states.

Original languageEnglish
Article number014002
JournalPhysiological Measurement
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018


  • cardiovascular variability
  • complexity
  • entropy
  • head-up tilt
  • mental stress
  • network physiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Physiology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Physiology (medical)


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