Heart rate variability in drug-naïve patients with panic disorder and major depressive disorder

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Nov 13;33(8):1474-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2009.08.002. Epub 2009 Aug 8.


Power spectral analysis of electrocardiogram (ECG) R-R intervals is useful for the detection of autonomic dysfunction in various clinical disorders. Although both panic disorder (PD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) are known to have effects on the cardiac autonomic nervous system, no previous study has tested this among drug-naïve (i.e. no history of treatment) patients with MDD and PD in the same study. The purpose of this study was to compare cardiac autonomic functions among drug-naïve patients with MDD and PD and those of healthy controls. Subjects were 17 drug-naïve PD patients, 15 drug-naïve MDD patients and 15 normal controls. ECGs were recorded under both supine resting and supine deep-breathing conditions (10-12 breaths/min; 0.17-0.20 Hz). We measured the low-frequency power (LF; 0.05-0.15 Hz), which may reflect baroreflex function, the high-frequency power (HF; 0.15-0.40 Hz), which reflects cardiac parasympathetic activity, as well as the LF/HF ratio. As expected, deep breathing induced an increase in HF power and a decrease in the LF/HF ratio in healthy controls. Compared to these controls, however, the MDD group had a lower response to regular deep breathing in LF power and in LF/HF ratio. PD patients showed intermediate results between normal controls and MDD patients. The results indicate that the reactivity to deep breathing revealed diminished cardiac autonomic reactivity in drug-naïve MDD patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Mass Index
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology*
  • Electrocardiography / methods
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Panic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult