Relation between heart rate variability and spectral analysis of electroencephalogram in chronic neuropathic pain patients

Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2024 May 1;28(3):253-264. doi: 10.4196/kjpp.2024.28.3.253.


Chronic neuropathic pain (CNP) is a complex condition often arising from neural maladaptation after nerve injury. Understanding CNP complications involves the intricate interplay between brain-heart dynamics, assessed through quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) and heart rate variability (HRV). However, insights into their interaction in chronic pain are limited. Resting EEG and simultaneous electrocardiogram (lead II) of the participants were recorded for qEEG and HRV analysis. Correlations between HRV and qEEG parameters were calculated and compared with age, sex, and body mass index (BMI)-matched controls. CNP patients showed reduced HRV and significant increases in qEEG power spectral densities within delta, theta, and beta frequency ranges. A positive correlation was found between low frequency/ high frequency (LF/HF) ratio in HRV analysis and theta, alpha, and beta frequency bands in qEEG among CNP patients. However, no significant correlation was observed between parasympathetic indices and theta, beta bands in qEEG within CNP group, unlike age, sex, and BMI-matched healthy controls. CNP patients display significant HRV reductions and distinctive qEEG patterns. While healthy controls exhibit significant correlations between parasympathetic HRV parameters and qEEG spectral densities, these relationships are diminished or absent in CNP individuals. LF/HF ratio, reflecting sympathovagal balance, correlates significantly with qEEG frequency bands (theta, alpha, beta), illuminating autonomic dysregulation in CNP. These findings emphasize the intricate brain-heart interplay in chronic pain, warranting further exploration.

Keywords: Autonomic nervous system; Chronic pain; Electroencephalography; Heart rate variability; Neuropathic pain.