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: 1.56). 01/2009; 145(1-2):99-103. DOI: 10.1016/j.autneu.2008.11.010
Source: PubMed


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
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    • "PNS versus sympathetic-dominant autonomic patterns have been incorporated into contemporary theories on emotion (Kreibig et al., 2007; Sequeira et al., 2009; Kreibig, 2010). Because anxiety and the relaxation response represent incompatible patterns of affective responding (Hofmann et al., 2005; Miu et al., 2009), the finding that greater anxiety, in both its sustained (trait) and transient (state) form, is associated with reduced preference for studied nonwords provides converging evidence for the suggestion that the relaxation response may drive the mere exposure effect. "
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