The predictive potential of Heart Rate Variability for Depression

Neuroscience. 2024 Mar 19:S0306-4522(24)00126-X. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2024.03.013. Online ahead of print.


Heart rate variability (HRV),a measure of the fluctuations in the intervals between consecutive heartbeats, is an indicator of changes in the autonomic nervous system. A chronic reduction in HRV has been repeatedly linked to clinical depression. However, the chronological and mechanistic aspects of this relationship, between the neural, physiological, and psychopathological levels, remain unclear. In this review we present evidence by which changes in HRV might precede the onset of depression. We describe several pathways that can facilitate this relationship. First, we examine a theoretical model of the impact of autonomic imbalance on HRV and its role in contributing to mood dysregulation and depression. We then highlight brain regions that are regulating both HRV and emotion, suggesting these neural regions as potential mediators of this relationship, and the Insula in particular. We also present additional possible mediating mechanisms involving the immune system and inflammation processes. Lastly, we support this model by showing evidence that modification of HRV with biofeedback leads to an improvement in some depression symptoms. The possibility that changes in HRV precede the onset of depression is a critical possibility to put to the test, not only because it will provide insights into the mechanisms of the illness but also because it may offer a predictive anddiagnosticphysiological marker for depression. Importantly, it may then also help develop new effective clinical interventions for the treatment of depression.

PMID:38513761 | DOI:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2024.03.013