Dynamical assessment of physiological systems and states using recurrence plot strategies

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1994 Feb;76(2):965-73. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1994.76.2.965.


Physiological systems are best characterized as complex dynamical processes that are continuously subjected to and updated by nonlinear feedforward and feedback inputs. System outputs usually exhibit wide varieties of behaviors due to dynamical interactions between system components, external noise perturbations, and physiological state changes. Complicated interactions occur at a variety of hierarchial levels and involve a number of interacting variables, many of which are unavailable for experimental measurement. In this paper we illustrate how recurrence plots can take single physiological measurements, project them into multidimensional space by embedding procedures, and identify time correlations (recurrences) that are not apparent in the one-dimensional time series. We extend the original description of recurrence plots by computing an array of specific recurrence variables that quantify the deterministic structure and complexity of the plot. We then demonstrate how physiological states can be assessed by making repeated recurrence plot calculations within a window sliding down any physiological dynamic. Unlike other predominant time series techniques, recurrence plot analyses are not limited by data stationarity and size constraints. Pertinent physiological examples from respiratory and skeletal motor systems illustrate the utility of recurrence plots in the diagnosis of nonlinear systems. The methodology is fully applicable to any rhythmical system, whether it be mechanical, electrical, neural, hormonal, chemical, or even spacial.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Fatigue / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Muscles / physiopathology
  • Physiology / methods*
  • Respiration / physiology