Journal of the Autonomic Nervous System, 78(2–3), 141–157p. (2000) DOI:10.1016/S0165-1838(99)00072-7

Phase transitions in the common brainstem and related systems investigated by nonstationary time series analysis

M. Lambertz, R. Vandenhouten, R. Grebe, P. Langhorst

Neuronal activities of the reticular formation (RF) of the lower brainstem and the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS, first relay station of baroreceptor afferents) were recorded together in the anesthized dog with related parameters of EEG, respiration and cardiovascular system. The RF neurons are part of the common brainstem system (CBS) which participates in regulation and coordination of cardiovascular, respiratory, somatomotor systems, and vigilance. Multiple time series of these physiological subsystems yield useful information about internal dynamic coordination of the organism. Essential problems are nonlinearity and instationarity of the signals, due to the dynamic complexity of the systems. Several time-resolving methods are presented to describe nonlinear dynamic couplings in the time course, particularly during phase transitions. The methods are applied to the recorded signals representing the complex couplings of the physiological subsystems. Phase transitions in these systems are detected by recurrence plots of the instationary signals. The pointwise transinformation and the pointwise conditional coupling divergence are measures of the mutual interaction of the subsystems in the state space. If the signals show marked rhythms, instantaneous frequencies and their shiftings are demonstrated by time frequency distributions, and instantaneous phase differences show couplings of oscillating subsystems. Transient signal components are reconstructed by wavelet packet time selective transient reconstruction. These methods are useful means for analyzing coupling characteristics of the complex physiological system, and detailed analyses of internal dynamic coordination of subsystems become possible. During phase transitions of the functional organization (a) the rhythms of the central neuronal activities and the peripheral systems are altered, (b) changes in the coupling between CBS neurons and cardiovascular signals, respiration and the EEG, and (c) between NTS neurons (influenced by baroreceptor afferents) and CBS neurons occur, and (d) the processing of baroreceptor input at the NTS neurons changes. The results of this complex analysis, which could not be done formerly in this manner, confirm and complete former investigations on the dynamic organization of the CBS with its changing relations to peripheral and other central nervous subsystems.

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