The Selective Discrete Fourier transform (DFT) Algorithm [SDA] method for the calculation and display of time-frequency distribution has been developed and validated. For each time and frequency, the algorithm selects the shortest required trace length and calculates the corresponding spectral component by means of DFT. This approach can be extended to any cardiovascular related signal and provides time-dependent power spectra which are intuitively easy to consider, due to their close relation to the classical spectral analysis approach. The optimal parameters of the SDA for cardiovascular-like signals were chosen. The SDA perform standard spectral analysis on stationary simulated signals as well as reliably detect abrupt changes in the frequency content of nonstationary signals. The SDA applied during a stimulated respiration experiment, accurately detected the changes in the frequency location and amplitude of the respiratory peak in the heart rate (HR) spectrum. It also detected and quantified the expected increase in vagal tone during vagal stimuli. Furthermore, the HR time-dependent power spectrum displayed the increase in sympathetic activity and the vagal withdrawal on standing. Such transient changes in HR control would have been smeared out by standard heart rate variability (HRV), which requires consideration of long trace lengths. The SDA provides a reliable tool for the evaluation and quantification of the control exerted by the Central Nervous System, during clinical and experimental procedures resulting in nonstationary signals.