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ECG artifacts and heart period variability: Don't miss a beat!

    • Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 July 2016


The impact of artifacts on estimates of heart period variability were evaluated by modeling the effects of missed R-waves and spurious R-wave detections in actual and simulated heart period series. Results revealed that even a single artifact, occurring within a 128-s interbeat interval series, can impart substantial spurious variance into all commonly analyzed frequency bands, including that associated with respiratory sinus arrhythmia. In fact, the spurious variance introduced by a single artifact may be greater than that associated with true basal heart period variability and can far exceed typical effect sizes in psychophysiological studies. The effects of artifacts are not related to a specific analytical method and are apparent in both frequency and time domain analyses. Results emphasize the importance of artifact detection and resolution for studies of heart period variability.


Corresponding author

Address reprint requests to: Gary G. Berntson, The Ohio State University, 48 Townshend Hall, Columbus, OH 43210, USA. E-mail:
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  • ISSN: 0048-5772
  • EISSN: 1469-8986
  • URL: /core/journals/psychophysiology
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