To date, there have been no studies that investigate the independent use of the photoplethysmogram (PPG) signal to determine heart rate variability (HRV). However, researchers have demonstrated that PPG signals offer an alternative way of measuring HRV when electrocardiogram (ECG) and PPG signals are collected simultaneously. Based on these findings, we take the use of PPGs to the next step and investigate a different approach to show the potential independent use of short 20-second PPG signals collected from healthy subjects after exercise in a hot environment to measure HRV. Our hypothesis is that if the PPG--HRV indices are negatively correlated with age, then short PPG signals are appropriate measurements for extracting HRV parameters. The PPGs of 27 healthy male volunteers at rest and after exercise were used to determine the HRV indices: standard deviation of heartbeat interval (SDNN) and the root-mean square of the difference of successive heartbeats (RMSSD). The results indicate that the use of the $aa$ interval, derived from the acceleration of PPG signals, is promising in determining the HRV statistical indices SDNN and RMSSD over 20-second PPG recordings. Moreover, the post-exercise SDNN index shows a negative correlation with age. There tends to be a decrease of the PPG--SDNN index with increasing age, whether at rest or after exercise. This new outcome validates the negative relationship between HRV in general with age, and consequently provides another evidence that short PPG signals have the potential to be used in heart rate analysis without the need to measure lengthy sequences of either ECG or PPG signals.
Elgendi, M., Norton, I., Brearley, M., Dokos, S., Abbott, D., & Schuurmans, D. (2016). A pilot study: Can heart rate variability (HRV) be determined using short-term photoplethysmograms? . F1000Research, 5(2354 ), 1-13. . https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.9556.1