Alexander R Burton

University of New South Wales, Kensington, New South Wales, Australia

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Publications (5)21.59 Total impact

  • International journal of cardiology 10/2012; · 6.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cognitive difficulties and autonomic dysfunction have been reported separately in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). A role for heart rate variability (HRV) in cognitive flexibility has been demonstrated in healthy individuals, but this relationship has not as yet been examined in CFS. The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between HRV and cognitive performance in patients with CFS. Participants were 30 patients with CFS and 40 healthy controls; the groups were matched for age, sex, education, body mass index, and hours of moderate exercise/week. Questionnaires were used to obtain relevant medical and demographic information, and assess current symptoms and functional impairment. Electrocardiograms, perceived fatigue/effort and performance data were recorded during cognitive tasks. Between-group differences in autonomic reactivity and associations with cognitive performance were analysed. Patients with CFS showed no deficits in performance accuracy, but were significantly slower than healthy controls. CFS was further characterized by low and unresponsive HRV; greater heart rate (HR) reactivity and prolonged HR-recovery after cognitive challenge. Fatigue levels, perceived effort and distress did not affect cognitive performance. HRV was consistently associated with performance indices and significantly predicted variance in cognitive outcomes. These findings reveal for the first time an association between reduced cardiac vagal tone and cognitive impairment in CFS and confirm previous reports of diminished vagal activity.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(11):e49518. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Disturbances of the internal biological clock manifest as fatigue, poor concentration, and sleep disturbances-symptoms reminiscent of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and suggestive of a role for circadian rhythm disturbance in CFS. We examined circadian patterns of activity, sleep, and cortisol secretion in patients with CFS. Case-control study, 5-day behavioral observation. Natural setting/home environment 15 patients with CFS and 15 healthy subjects of similar age, sex, body mass index (BMI), and activity levels. N/A MEASUREMENTS: Self-report questionnaires were used to obtain medical history and demographic information and to assess health behaviors, somatic and psychological symptoms, and sleep quality. An actiwatch accelerometer recorded activity and sleep patterns over 5 days with concurrent activity and symptom logs. Diurnal salivary cortisol secretion was measured. Additionally, overnight heart rate monitoring and pain sensitivity assessment was undertaken. Ratings of symptoms, disability, sleep disturbance, and pain sensitivity were greater in patients with CFS. No between-group differences were found in the pattern or amount of sleep, activity, or cortisol secretion. Afternoon activity levels significantly increased evening fatigue in patients but not control subjects. Low nocturnal heart rate variability was identified as a biological correlate of unrefreshing sleep. We found no evidence of circadian rhythm disturbance in CFS. However, the role of autonomic activity in the experience of unrefreshing sleep warrants further assessment. The activity symptom-relationship modelled here is of clinical significance in the approach to activity and symptom management in the treatment of CFS.
    Sleep 05/2011; 34(5):671-8. · 5.10 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This study examined whether post-infective fatigue syndrome (PIFS) is associated with a disturbance in bidirectional autonomic signalling resulting in heightened perception of symptoms and sensations from the body in conjunction with autonomic hyper-reactivity to perceived challenges. We studied 23 patients with PIFS and 25 healthy matched control subjects. A heartbeat discrimination task and a pressure pain threshold test were used to assess interoceptive sensitivity. Cardiac response was assessed over a 4-min Stroop task. PIFS was associated with higher accuracy in heartbeat discrimination and a lower pressure pain threshold. Increased interoceptive sensitivity correlated strongly with current symptoms and potentiated differences in the cardiac response to the Stroop task, which in PIFS was characterized by insensitivity to task difficulty and lack of habituation. Our results provide the first evidence of heightened interoceptive sensitivity in PIFS. Together with the distinct pattern in cardiac responsivity these findings present a picture of physiological hyper-vigilance and response inflexibility.
    Biological psychology 09/2010; 85(1):97-103. · 4.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Parasympathetic function is important in the induction and maintenance of sleep. We examined whether nocturnal vagal modulation of heart rate is related to the poor sleep quality commonly reported in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Heart rate (HR, as R-R intervals) was continuously monitored during sleep in 20 patients with CFS and 20 matched control subjects. Questionnaires assessed demographic information, symptoms, functional impairment, and subjective sleep quality. CFS was associated with more sleep problems in general and poorer subjective sleep quality on the study night (all p < 0.003), and reports of repeated awakening during the night were 7 times more likely compared to healthy subjects (p = 0.017). Time and frequency-domain parameters of HR variability during sleep were significantly lower in patients with CFS (all p < 0.006). Multiple regression analyses revealed that heart rate variability (HRV) parameters were the best predictors of subjective sleep measures. This study identified significant reductions in vagal modulation of heart rate during sleep in CFS. Low HRV strongly predicted sleep quality-suggesting a pervasive state of nocturnal sympathetic hypervigilance in CFS.
    Experimental Brain Research 07/2010; 204(1):71-8. · 2.22 Impact Factor