Statistical Coding and Decoding of Heartbeat IntervalsReport as inadecuate

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The heart integrates neuroregulatory messages into specific bands of frequency, such that the overall amplitude spectrum of the cardiac output reflects the variations of the autonomic nervous system. This modulatory mechanism seems to be well adjusted to the unpredictability of the cardiac demand, maintaining a proper cardiac regulation. A longstanding theory holds that biological organisms facing an ever-changing environment are likely to evolve adaptive mechanisms to extract essential features in order to adjust their behavior. The key question, however, has been to understand how the neural circuitry self-organizes these feature detectors to select behaviorally relevant information. Previous studies in computational perception suggest that a neural population enhances information that is important for survival by minimizing the statistical redundancy of the stimuli. Herein we investigate whether the cardiac system makes use of a redundancy reduction strategy to regulate the cardiac rhythm. Based on a network of neural filters optimized to code heartbeat intervals, we learn a population code that maximizes the information across the neural ensemble. The emerging population code displays filter tuning proprieties whose characteristics explain diverse aspects of the autonomic cardiac regulation, such as the compromise between fast and slow cardiac responses. We show that the filters yield responses that are quantitatively similar to observed heart rate responses during direct sympathetic or parasympathetic nerve stimulation. Our findings suggest that the heart decodes autonomic stimuli according to information theory principles analogous to how perceptual cues are encoded by sensory systems.

Author: Fausto Lucena , Allan Kardec Barros, José C. Príncipe, Noboru Ohnishi



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