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Physiol Res. 2014;63(4):439-56. Epub 2014 Apr 3.

Multi-time scale perspective in analyzing cardiovascular data.

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Institute of Physiology, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.


Cardiovascular dynamic and variability data are commonly used in experimental protocols involving cognitive challenge. Usually, the analysis is based on a sometimes more and sometimes less well motivated single specific time resolution ranging from a few seconds to several minutes. The present paper aimed at investigating in detail the impact of different time resolutions of the cardiovascular data on the interpretation of effects. We compared three template tasks involving varying types of challenge, in order to provide a case study of specific effects and combinations of effects over different time frames and using different time resolutions. Averaged values of hemodynamic variables across an entire protocol confirmed typical findings regarding the effects of mental challenge and social observation. However, the hemodynamic response also incorporates transient variations in variables reflecting important features of the control system response. The fine-grained analysis of the transient behavior of hemodynamic variables demonstrates that information that is important for interpreting effects may be lost when only average values over the entire protocol are used as a representative of the system response. The study provides useful indications of how cardiovascular measures may be fruitfully used in experiments involving cognitive demands, allowing inferences on the physiological processes underlying the responses.

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