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The relationship between emotion regulation capacity, heart rate variability, and quality of life in individuals with alcohol-related brain damage

Authors Steinmetz J, Vögele C, Theisen-Flies C, Federspiel C, Sütterlin S

Received 12 March 2016

Accepted for publication 4 May 2016

Published 23 August 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 219—235


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman

Jean-Paul Steinmetz,1,2 Claus Vögele,3,4 Christiane Theisen-Flies,5 Carine Federspiel,1,2 Stefan Sütterlin6,7

1Department of Research and Development, ZithaSenior, 2Centre for Memory and Mobility, ZithaSenior, 3Institute for Health and Behaviour, Integrative Research Unit on Social and Individual Development (INSIDE), University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg; 4Research Group Health Psychology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium; 5Home St Joseph, ZithaSenior, Luxembourg; 6Department of Psychology, Lillehammer University College, Lillehammer, 7Division of Surgery and Clinical Neuroscience, Department of Psychosomatic Medicine, Oslo University Hospital – Rikshospitalet, Oslo, Norway

Abstract: The reliable measurement of quality of life (QoL) presents a challenge in individuals with alcohol-related brain damage. This study investigated vagally mediated heart rate variability (vmHRV) as a physiological predictor of QoL. Self- and proxy ratings of QoL and dysexecutive symptoms were collected once, while vmHRV was repeatedly assessed over a 3-week period at weekly intervals in a sample of nine alcohol-related brain damaged patients. We provide robustness checks, bootstrapped correlations with confidence intervals, and standard errors for mean scores. We observed low to very low heart rate variability scores in our patients in comparison to norm values found in healthy populations. Proxy ratings of the QoL scale “subjective physical and mental performance” and everyday executive dysfunctions were strongly related to vmHRV. Better proxy-rated QoL and fewer dysexecutive symptoms were observed in those patients with higher vmHRV. Overall, patients showed low parasympathetic activation favoring the occurrence of dysfunctional emotion regulation strategies.

Keywords: heart rate variability, emotion regulation, alcohol-related brain damage, quality of life

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