Biomedical Engineering Letters

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 425–434 | Cite as

A physiology based model of heart rate variability

  • Wilhelm von Rosenberg
  • Marc-Oscar Hoting
  • Danilo P. MandicEmail author
Original Article


Heart rate variability (HRV) is governed by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and is routinely used to estimate the state of body and mind. At the same time, recorded HRV features can vary substantially between people. A model for HRV that (1) correctly simulates observed HRV, (2) reliably functions for multiple scenarios, and (3) can be personalised using a manageable set of parameters, would be a significant step forward toward understanding individual responses to external influences, such as physical and physiological stress. Current HRV models attempt to reproduce HRV characteristics by mimicking the statistical properties of measured HRV signals. The model presented here for the simulation of HRV follows a radically different approach, as it is based on an approximation of the physiology behind the triggering of a heart beat and the biophysics mechanisms of how the triggering process—and thereby the HRV—is governed by the ANS. The model takes into account the metabolisation rates of neurotransmitters and the change in membrane potential depending on transmitter and ion concentrations. It produces an HRV time series that not only exhibits the features observed in real data, but also explains a reduction of low frequency band-power for physically or psychologically high intensity scenarios. Furthermore, the proposed model enables the personalisation of input parameters to the physiology of different people, a unique feature not present in existing methods. All these aspects are crucial for the understanding and application of future wearable health.


Modelling heart rate variability Wearable ECG Vital signs Physical stress Mental stress Autonomic nervous system 


Compliance with ethical standards


This work was supported by the Rosetrees Trust and MURI/EPSRC [Grant Number EP/P008461].

Conflict of interest

Wilhelm von Rosenberg declares that he has no conflict of interest. Marc-Oscar Hoting declares that he has no conflict of interest. Danilo Mandic declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Not applicable.


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Copyright information

© Korean Society of Medical and Biological Engineering 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wilhelm von Rosenberg
    • 1
  • Marc-Oscar Hoting
    • 2
  • Danilo P. Mandic
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Electrical and Electronic EngineeringImperial College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of CardiologyCharité Universitätsmedizin Berlin – Campus Benjamin FranklinBerlinGermany

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