A Novel Methodology for the Synchronous Collection and Multimodal Visualization of Continuous Neurocardiovascular and Neuromuscular Physiological Data in Adults with Long COVID


Background: Reports suggest that adults with post-COVID-19 syndrome or long COVID may be affected by orthostatic intolerance syndromes, with autonomic nervous system dysfunction as a possible causal factor of neurocardiovascular instability (NCVI). Long COVID can also manifest as prolonged fatigue, which may be linked to neuromuscular function impairment (NMFI). The current clinical assessment for NCVI monitors neurocardiovascular performance upon the application of orthostatic stressors such as an active (i.e., self-induced) stand or a passive (tilt table) standing test. Lower limb muscle contractions may be important in orthostatic recovery via the skeletal muscle pump. In this study, adults with long COVID were assessed with a protocol that, in addition to the standard NCVI tests, incorporated simultaneous lower limb muscle monitoring for NMFI assessment. Methods: To conduct such an investigation, a wide range of continuous non-invasive biomedical sensing technologies were employed, including digital artery photoplethysmography for the extraction of cardiovascular signals, near-infrared spectroscopy for the extraction of regional tissue oxygenation in brain and muscle, and electromyography for assessment of timed muscle contractions in the lower limbs. Results: With the proposed methodology described and exemplified in this paper, we were able to collect relevant physiological data for the assessment of neurocardiovascular and neuromuscular functioning. We were also able to integrate signals from a variety of instruments in a synchronized fashion and visualize the interactions between different physiological signals during the combined NCVI/NMFI assessment. Multiple counts of evidence were collected, which can capture the dynamics between skeletal muscle contractions and neurocardiovascular responses. Conclusions: The proposed methodology can offer an overview of the functioning of the neurocardiovascular and neuromuscular systems in a combined NCVI/NMFI setup and is capable of conducting comparative studies with signals from multiple participants at any given time in the assessment. This could help clinicians and researchers generate and test hypotheses based on the multimodal inspection of raw data in long COVID and other cohorts.