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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Nonlinear control of heart rate variability in human infants.

Nonlinear analyses of infant heart rhythms reveal a marked rise in the complexity of the electrocardiogram with maturation. We find that normal mature infants (gestation greater than or equal to 35 weeks) have complex and distinctly nonlinear heart rhythms (consistent with recent reports for healthy adults) but that such nonlinearity is lacking in preterm infants (gestation > or = to 27 weeks) where parasympathetic-sympathetic interaction and function are presumed to be less well developed. Our study further shows that infants with clinical brain death and those treated with atropine exhibit a similar lack of nonlinear feedback control. These three lines of evidence support the hypothesis championed by Goldberger et al. [Goldberger, A.L., Rigney, D.R. & West, B.J. (1990) Sci. Am. 262, 43-49] that autonomic nervous system control underlies the nonlinearity and possible chaos of normal heart rhythms. This report demonstrates the acquisition of nonlinear heart rate dynamics and possible chaos in developing human infants and its loss in brain death and with the administration of atropine. It parallels earlier work documenting changes in the variability of heart rhythms in each of these cases and suggests that nonlinearity may provide additional power in characterizing physiological states.[1]


  1. Nonlinear control of heart rate variability in human infants. Sugihara, G., Allan, W., Sobel, D., Allan, K.D. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (1996) [Pubmed]
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