Reduced heart rate variability and vagal tone in anxiety: Trait versus state, and the effects of autogenic training

Program of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, CJ 400015, Romania.
Autonomic neuroscience: basic & clinical (Impact Factor: 1.37). 01/2009; 145(1-2):99-103. DOI: 10.1016/j.autneu.2008.11.010
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This study investigated heart rate variability (HRV) in healthy volunteers that were selected for extreme scores of trait anxiety (TA), during two opposite psychophysiological conditions of mental stress, and relaxation induced by autogenic training. R-R intervals, HF and LF powers, and LF/HF ratios were derived from short-term electrocardiographic recordings made during mental stress and relaxation by autogenic training, with respiratory rate and skin conductance being controlled for in all the analyses. The main finding was that high TA was associated with reduced R-R intervals and HF power across conditions. In comparison to mental stress, autogenic training increased HRV and facilitated the vagal control of the heart. There were no significant effects of TA or the psychophysiological conditions on LF power, or LF/HF ratio. These results support the view that TA, which is an important risk factor for anxiety disorders and predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, is associated with autonomic dysfunction that seems likely to play a pathogenetic role in the long term.

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Available from: Andrei C. Miu, Aug 29, 2015
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    • "We measured checking behaviour during the stressor task, as well as heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV). HR was used as a physiological indicator of levels of state anxiety during the stressor (Miu et al. 2009), whereas HRV was included as a biomarker of adaptive emotion regulation in response to the stressor (Appelhans and Luecken 2006; Thayer and Lane 2000, 2009). Evolutionarily informed theories of HRV suggest that high-frequency HRV facilitates effective responding to socially and emotionally-relevant changes in the environment (Denson et al. 2011). "
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    • "Several studies have shown that HRV in the high frequency range (between 0.15 Hz and 0.4 Hz) is exclusively meditated by parasympathetic activity whereas low frequency variations (between 0.004 Hz and 0.15 Hz) are mediated by both sympathetic and parasympathetic outflows [3] [4]. More recently, some studies showed that parasympathetic activity was influenced by the emotional state and decreases in situations of stress or discomfort [5] [6] or increases with the feeling of wellbeing [7]. HRV high frequency variations are mainly modulated by respiration. "
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    • "High trait anxiety is associated with reduced HRV and vagal tone. In comparison to mental stress, AT increased HRV and facilitated the vagal control of the heart (Miu et al., 2009). AT significantly decreased cardiac sympathetic nervous activity and significantly increased cardiac parasympathetic nervous activity (Mitani et al., 2006). "
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