Relationship of heart rate variability to parasympathetic effect

Jeffrey J. Goldberger, Sridevi Challapalli, Roderick Tung, Michele A. Parker, Alan H. Kadish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

243 Scopus citations


Background - Baroreflex-mediated parasympathetic stimulation has variable effects on heart rate variability (HRV). We postulated that a quadratic function would describe the relationship between HRV and parasympathetic effect better than a linear function. Methods and Results - Twenty-nine normal volunteers (15 women; mean age 39±12 years) were studied after β-adrenergic blockade with intravenous propranolol. Five-minute ECG recordings were made during graded infusions of phenylephrine and nitroprusside to achieve baroreflex-mediated increases and decreases in parasympathetic effect, respectively. Time- and frequency-domain measures of HRV were calculated from the R-R interval tachograms. The R-R interval and the vagal-sympathetic effect (VSE = R-R interval/intrinsic R-R interval) were used as indices of parasympathetic effect. The data were fit to both quadratic and linear models. In each case, the quadratic model (with a negative coefficient for the squared term) was superior to the linear model. There was some evidence that age influenced the responsiveness of the HRV parameters with changing parasympathetic effect, although the regression analysis was significant only in the models for MSSD (P<0.03) and pNN50 (P<0.001). Conclusions - The relationship between HRV and parasympathetic effect is best described by a function in which there is an ascending limb where HRV increases as parasympathetic effect increases until it reaches a plateau level; HRV then decreases as parasympathetic effect increases. Because there is marked interindividual variation in this relationship, differences in HRV between individuals may reflect differences in this relationship and/or differences in autonomic effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1977-1983
Number of pages7
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 17 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Heart rate
  • Nervous system, autonomic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Relationship of heart rate variability to parasympathetic effect'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this