Heart rate variability in acute psychosis

Psychophysiology. 2003 Sep;40(5):716-26. doi: 10.1111/1469-8986.00072.


Heart rate variability (HRV) provides reliable tools to assess the integrity and reactivity of autonomic nervous function. Our aim was to examine HRV in the resting condition and during different mental loads in acute psychosis compared to healthy controls. HRV was measured in 17 first-episode drug-naive patients with psychosis and 21 healthy controls during oddball tasks and while performing the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. A discrete event series was constructed by an adaptive QRS detector algorithm and power spectrum estimation was carried out. The RMSSD (representing interval differences of successive heartbeats) and the amount of high frequency (HF) power were significantly reduced in patients. Moreover, the patients' HRV remained unaltered during the tasks, whereas in controls the HRV diminished with increasing mental load of the task. Patients with psychosis displayed less short-term HR reactivity than healthy controls. They also failed to adapt HRV according to the task-connected strain. Acute psychosis is characterized by a limited capacity to respond to external demands at the level of autonomic nervous system.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology