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The differences between patients with panic disorder and healthy controls in psychophysiological stress profile

Authors Kotianova A, Kotian M, Slepecky M, Chupacova M, Prasko J, Tonhajzerova I

Received 1 October 2017

Accepted for publication 21 November 2017

Published 7 February 2018 Volume 2018:14 Pages 435—441


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Roger Pinder

Antonia Kotianova,1,2 Michal Kotian,2 Milos Slepecky,1,2 Michaela Chupacova,2 Jan Prasko,1,3 Ingrid Tonhajzerova4,5

1Department of Psychology Sciences, Faculty of Social Science and Health Care, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Nitra, Slovak Republic; 2Psychagogia, Garbiarska, Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovak Republic; 3Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University Palacky Olomouc, University Hospital, Olomouc, Czech Republic; 4Department of Physiology, Jessenius Faculty of Medicine in Martin, Comenius University in Bratislava, Martin, Slovak Republic; 5Biomedical Center Martin, Jessenius Faculty of Medicine in Martin, Comenius University in Bratislava, Martin, Slovak Republic

Background: Alarming somatic symptoms, in particular, cardiovascular symptoms, are the characteristic feature of panic attacks. Increased cardiac mortality and morbidity have been found in these patients. Power spectral analysis of electrocardiogram R–R intervals is known to be a particularly successful tool in the detection of autonomic instabilities in various clinical disorders. Our study aimed to compare patients with panic disorder and healthy controls in heart rate variation (HRV) parameters (very-low-frequency [VLF], low-frequency [LF], and high-frequency [HF] band components of R–R interval) in baseline and during the response to the mental task.
Subjects and methods: We assessed psychophysiological variables in 33 patients with panic disorder (10 men, 23 women; mean age 35.9±10.7 years) and 33 age- and gender-matched healthy controls (10 men, 23 women; mean age 35.8±12.1 years). Patients were treatment naïve. Heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and HRV in basal conditions and after the psychological task were assessed. Power spectrum was computed for VLF (0.003–0.04 Hz), LF (0.04–0.15 Hz), and HF (0.15–0.40 Hz) bands using fast Fourier transformation.
Results: In the baseline period, the VLF band was significantly lower in panic disorder group compared to controls (p<0.005). In the period of mental task, the LF/HF ratio was significantly higher in panic disorder patients compared to controls (p<0.05). No significant differences were found in the remaining parameters. There was a significant difference in ΔHF and ΔLF/HF ratio between patients and controls, with Δ increasing in patients and decreasing in controls.
Conclusion: These findings revealed that patients suffering from panic disorder were characterized by relative sympathetic dominance (reactivity) in response to mental stress compared with healthy controls.

Keywords: panic disorder, heart rate variability, pulse, blood pressure, muscle tension, psychological task

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