Volume 57 (2007) Issue 5 Pages 259-268
The cardiac baroreflex constitutes an important mechanism mediating autonomic control of heart activity. Its function can be quantified by applying sequence analysis based on continuous recordings of blood pressure and heart rate. In this study, several indices derived from this method were compared regarding their suitability to estimate baroreflex function at rest and during autonomic stimulation. A cold pressor test was used to induce vagal withdrawal. Changes in the following indices evoked by this procedure were examined: baroreflex sensitivity (the extent of changes in heart period following blood pressure fluctuations), baroreflex effectiveness (the relative frequency in which the reflex responds to blood pressure fluctuations), and baroreflex power (the reflex operations in a defined period). The values of all indices decreased during autonomic stimulation. The strongest and most consistent effect, however, was observed for baroreflex sensitivity, suggesting that this parameter is the most sensitive to changes in parasympathetic tone among the three parameters. Baroreflex sensitivity also proved to differentiate between individuals with higher and lower resting blood pressure. Therefore, this index may best reflect the well-known involvement of the baroreflex in the long-term setting of blood pressure. Midrange correlations between the indices of baroreflex function suggest that they quantify similar, though not identical, aspects of baroreflex function. This study supports the use of sequence analysis as a reliable tool for the quantification of parasympathetic cardiac control. The sensitivity index must be considered the most relevant to quantify baroreflex function among the three parameters.