The metrics of cardiac chronotropism: biometric perspectives

Psychophysiology. 1995 Mar;32(2):162-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.1995.tb03308.x.


The selection of heart period versus heart rate as a chronotropic metric has been considered from quantitative and statistical perspectives, which have not yielded a universal preference for either metric. In the present paper, we discuss biometric considerations that bear on the selection of the optimal chronotropic metric. Biometric evidence reveals that the transfer functions relating autonomic nerve traffic to chronotropic effects on the heart are more nearly linear for heart period than for heart rate. This confers considerable advantage on heart period as a chronotropic metric and can facilitate the study of psychophysiological relationships. We further show that heart period offers greater flexibility, because heart period data can be evaluated in cardiac time units (beats) or in real-time units (s), whereas heart rate data can only be analyzed in real time. These considerations suggest clear advantages to heart period as a chronotropic metric.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • Biometry
  • Chronobiology Phenomena / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Psychophysiology