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IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2018 Dec;65(12):2847-2854. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2018.2819719. Epub 2018 Mar 26.

Sleep-Dependent Directional Coupling of Cardiorespiratory System in Patients With Obstructive Sleep Apnea.



Cardiorespiratory interactions have been widely investigated in different physiological states and conditions. Various types of coupling characteristics have been observed in the cardiorespiratory system; however, it is difficult to identify and quantify details of their interaction. In this study, we investigate directional coupling of the cardiorespiratory system in different physiological states (sleep stages) and conditions, i.e., severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).


Directionality analysis is performed using the evolution map approach with heartbeats acquired from electrocardiogram and abdominal respiratory effort measured from the polysomnographic data of 39 healthy individuals and 24 mild, 21 moderate, and 23 severe patients with OSA. The mean phase coherence is used to confirm the weak and strong coupling of cardiorespiratory system.


We find that unidirectional coupling from the respiratory to the cardiac system increases during wakefulness (average value of -0.61) and rapid eye movement sleep (-0.55). Furthermore, unidirectional coupling between the two systems significantly decreases during light (-0.52) and deep sleep, which is further decreased in deep sleep (-0.46), approaching bidirectional coupling. In addition, unidirectional coupling from the respiratory to the cardiac system also significantly increases according to the severity of OSA.


These coupling characteristics in different states and conditions are believed to be linked with autonomic nervous modulation.


Our approach could provide an opportunity to understand how integrated systems cooperate for physiological functions under internal and external environmental changes, and how abnormality in one physiological system could develop to increase the risk of other systemic dysfunctions and/or disorders.


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