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Phys Rev Lett. 2007 Feb 2;98(5):054102. Epub 2007 Feb 1.

Experimental evidence for phase synchronization transitions in the human cardiorespiratory system.

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Minerva Center, Department of Physics, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel.


Transitions in the dynamics of complex systems can be characterized by changes in the synchronization behavior of their components. Taking the human cardiorespiratory system as an example and using an automated procedure for screening the synchrograms of 112 healthy subjects we study the frequency and the distribution of synchronization episodes under different physiological conditions that occur during sleep. We find that phase synchronization between heartbeat and breathing is significantly enhanced during non-rapid-eye-movement (non-REM) sleep (deep sleep and light sleep) and reduced during REM sleep. Our results suggest that the synchronization is mainly due to a weak influence of the breathing oscillator upon the heartbeat oscillator, which is disturbed in the presence of long-term correlated noise, superimposed by the activity of higher brain regions during REM sleep.

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