Research Reports - Reduced power spectra of heart rate variability are correlated with anxiety in patients with mild traumatic brain injury

Psychiatry Res. 2016 Sep 30;243:349-56. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2016.07.001. Epub
2016 Jul 1.

Liao KH(1), Sung CW(2), Chu SF(3), Chiu WT(3), Chiang YH(4), Hoffer B(5), Ou
JC(6), Chen KY(5), Tsai SH(3), Lin CM(6), Chen GS(7), Li WJ(8), Wang JY(9).

Anxiety is one of the most frequently diagnosed emotional disorders after a mild
traumatic brain injury (mTBI); however, predictors of anxiety after an mTBI
remain uncertain. Recent research indicated that anxiety is associated with
abnormalities in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which can be evaluated by a
power spectral analysis of heart rate variability (HRV). In this study, we
investigated whether a frequency-domain analysis of HRV could correlate with the
occurrence of anxiety in mTBI patients. We recruited 165 Taiwanese patients
diagnosed with an mTBI and 82 volunteer healthy controls from three affiliated
hospitals of Taipei Medical University during 2010-2014. The Beck Anxiety
Inventory (BAI) was assessed at the 1st, 6th, and 12th weeks. We found that mTBI
patients were more vulnerable to anxiety compared to healthy controls. The power
spectral density of HRV was significantly lower in mTBI patients than in healthy
controls. A correlation analysis indicated that anxiety was negatively
significantly correlated with low- and high-frequency power at the 6th week. Our
study suggests the clinical usefulness of HRV as a potential noninvasive tool for
evaluating later anxiety in mTBI patients. 

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