Statistical strategies to quantify respiratory sinus arrhythmia: are commonly used metrics equivalent?

Biol Psychol. 2012 Feb;89(2):349-64. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2011.11.009. Epub 2011 Dec 3.


Three frequently used RSA metrics are investigated to document violations of assumptions for parametric analyses, moderation by respiration, influences of nonstationarity, and sensitivity to vagal blockade. Although all metrics are highly correlated, new findings illustrate that the metrics are noticeably different on the above dimensions. Only one method conforms to the assumptions for parametric analyses, is not moderated by respiration, is not influenced by nonstationarity, and reliably generates stronger effect sizes. Moreover, this method is also the most sensitive to vagal blockade. Specific features of this method may provide insights into improving the statistical characteristics of other commonly used RSA metrics. These data provide the evidence to question, based on statistical grounds, published reports using particular metrics of RSA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Respiration*