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Am J Physiol. 1989 Jan;256(1 Pt 2):H142-52.

Transfer function analysis of autonomic regulation. I. Canine atrial rate response.

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  • 1Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Harvard University-Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139.


We present a useful technique for analyzing the various functional components that comprise the cardiovascular control network. Our approach entails the imposition of a signal with broad frequency content as an input excitation and the computation of a system transfer function using spectral estimation techniques. In this paper, we outline the analytical methods involved and demonstrate the utility of our approach in studying the dynamic behavior of the canine cardiac pacemaker. In particular, we applied frequency-modulated pulse trains to either the right vagus or the cardiac sympathetic nerve and computed transfer functions between nerve stimulation rate and the resulting atrial rate. We found that the sinoatrial node (and associated automatic tissue) responds as a low-pass filter to fluctuations in either sympathetic or parasympathetic tone. For sympathetic fluctuations, however, the filter has a much lower corner frequency than for vagal fluctuations and is coupled with a roughly 1.7-s pure delay. We further found that the filter characteristics, including the location of the corner frequency and rate of roll-off, depend significantly on the mean level of sympathetic or vagal tone imposed.

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