Validity and variability of xBRS: Instantaneous cardiac baroreflex sensitivity

Karel H. Wesseling, John M. Karemaker, Paolo Castiglioni, Emil Toader, Andrei Cividjian, Jos J. Settels, Luc Quintin, Berend E. Westerhof

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Spontaneous oscillations of blood pressure (BP) and interbeat interval (IBI) may reveal important information on the underlying baroreflex control and regulation of BP. We evaluated the method of continuously measured instantaneous baroreflex sensitivity by cross correlation (xBRS) validating its mean value against the gold standard of phenylephrine (Phe) and nitroprusside (SNP) bolus injections, and focusing on its spontaneous changes quantified as variability around the mean. For this purpose, we analyzed data from an earlier study of eight healthy males (aged 25–46 years) who had received Phe and SNP in conditions of baseline and autonomic blocking agents: atropine, propranolol, and clonidine. Average xBRS corresponds well to Phe/SNP-BRS, with xBRS levels ranging from 1.2 (atropine) to 102 msec/mmHg (subject asleep under clonidine). Time shifts from BP- to IBI-signal increased from ≤1 sec (maximum correlations within the current heartbeat) to 3–5 sec (under atropine). Plotted on a logarithmic vertical scale, xBRS values show 40% variability (defined as SD/mean) over the whole range in the various conditions, except twice when the subjects had fallen asleep and it dropped to 20%. The xBRS oscillates at frequencies of 0.1 Hz and lower, dominant between 0.02–0.05 Hz. Although xBRS is the result of IBI/BP-changes, no linear coherence was found in the cross-spectra of the xBRS-signal and IBI or BP. We speculate that the level of variability in the xBRS-signal may act as a probe into the central nervous condition, as evidenced in the two subjects who fell asleep with high xBRS and only 20% of relative variation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13509
JournalPhysiological reports
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • Atropine
  • Autonomic variability
  • Cardiac autonomic blockade
  • Cardiac baroreflex
  • Cardiac–respiratory interaction
  • Clonidine
  • Cross-correlation baroreflex
  • Propranolol
  • xBRS

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