Background: A joint symbolic analysis (JSA) is applied to assess the strength of the cardiovascular coupling from spontaneous beat-to-beat variability of the heart period (HP) and the systolic arterial pressure (SAP) during an experimental protocol inducing a gradual baroreflex unloading evoked by postural change (i.e. graded head-up tilt).
Method:: The adopted JSA can quantify the degree of association between the HP and SAP variabilities as a function of the time scale of the HP and SAP patterns. Traditional linear tools assessing the HP-SAP coupling strength, such as squared correlation coefficient, squared coherence function, and percentage of baroreflex sequences, were computed as well for comparison.
Results:: We found that: i) JSA indicated that the strength of the cardiovascular coupling at slow temporal scales gradually increased with the magnitude of the orthostatic challenge, while that at fast temporal scales gradually decreased; ii) the squared correlation coefficient and percentage of baroreflex sequences did not detect this behavior; iii) even though squared coherence function could measure the magnitude of the HP-SAP coupling as a function of the time scale, it was less powerful than JSA owing to the larger dispersion of the frequency domain indexes.
Conclusion:: Due to its peculiar features and high statistical power, JSA deserves applications to pathological groups in which the link between HP and SAP variabilities is lost or decreased due to the overall depression or impairment of the cardiovascular control.