Journal of Biological Physics

, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 383–392 | Cite as

Exponential Distribution of Long Heart Beat Intervals During Atrial Fibrillation and Their Relevance for White Noise Behaviour in Power Spectrum

  • Thomas Hennig
  • Philipp Maass
  • Junichiro Hayano
  • Stefan Heinrichs
Research Paper


The statistical properties of heart beat intervals of 130 long-term surface electrocardiogram recordings during atrial fibrillation (AF) are investigated. We find that the distribution of interbeat intervals exhibits a characteristic exponential tail, which is absent during sinus rhythm, as tested in a corresponding control study with 72 healthy persons. The rate γ of the exponential decay lies in the range 3–12 Hz and shows diurnal variations. It equals, up to statistical uncertainties, the level of the previously uncovered white noise part of the power spectrum, which is also characteristic for AF. The overall statistical features can be described by decomposing the intervals into two statistically independent times, where the first one is associated with a correlated process with 1/f noise characteristics, while the second one belongs to an uncorrelated process and is responsible for the exponential tail. It is suggested to use γ as a further parameter for a better classification of AF and for the medical diagnosis. The relevance of the findings with respect to a general understanding of AF is discussed.

Key words

atrial fibrillation RR interval distribution exponential tail power spectrum surface ECG time series analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Hennig
    • 1
  • Philipp Maass
    • 1
  • Junichiro Hayano
    • 2
  • Stefan Heinrichs
    • 3
  1. 1.Institut für PhysikTechnische Universität IlmenauIlmenauGermany
  2. 2.Core LaboratoryNagoya City University Graduate School of Medical SciencesNagoyaJapan
  3. 3.Fachbereich PhysikUniversität KonstanzKonstanzGermany

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