Sensitivity to mental effort and test-retest reliability of heart rate variability measures in healthy seniors

Shalini Mukherjee, Rajeev Yadav, Iris Yung, Daniel P. Zajdel, Barry S. Oken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Objectives: To determine (1) whether heart rate variability (HRV) was a sensitive and reliable measure in mental effort tasks carried out by healthy seniors and (2) whether non-linear approaches to HRV analysis, in addition to traditional time and frequency domain approaches were useful to study such effects. Methods: Forty healthy seniors performed two visual working memory tasks requiring different levels of mental effort, while ECG was recorded. They underwent the same tasks and recordings 2. weeks later. Traditional and 13 non-linear indices of HRV including Poincaré, entropy and detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA) were determined. Results: Time domain, especially mean R-R interval (RRI), frequency domain and, among non-linear parameters - Poincaré and DFA were the most reliable indices. Mean RRI, time domain and Poincaré were also the most sensitive to different mental effort task loads and had the largest effect size. Conclusions: Overall, linear measures were the most sensitive and reliable indices to mental effort. In non-linear measures, Poincaré was the most reliable and sensitive, suggesting possible usefulness as an independent marker in cognitive function tasks in healthy seniors. Significance: A large number of HRV parameters was both reliable as well as sensitive indices of mental effort, although the simple linear methods were the most sensitive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2059-2066
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Detrended fluctuation analysis
  • Entropy
  • Heart rate variability
  • Mental effort
  • Non-linear approaches
  • Poincaré
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Sensitivity to mental effort and test-retest reliability of heart rate variability measures in healthy seniors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this