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J Affect Disord. 2004 Feb;78(2):141-8.

Five-minute recordings of heart rate variability in obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and healthy volunteers.

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Department of Psychiatry, Academic Hospital Groningen, P.O. Box 30.001, 9700 RB, Groningen, The Netherlands.



Recent studies have used spectral analysis of heart rate variability (HRV) to study autonomous nervous system (ANS) function in panic disorder (PD). Most studies reported a reduced HRV in resting PD patients, suggesting increased sympathetic and decreased parasympathetic tone. In obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) inconsistent findings have been reported on ANS function and to date no studies have been carried out with spectral analysis of HRV. In this HRV study we compared ANS function in patients with PD, OCD and normal controls.


Standardized HRV measurement was carried out in 24 PD patients, 26 OCD patients and 24 age-matched normal controls. All patients were drug free. As this comparison yielded unexpected results, the PD and normal control samples were enlarged to 53 and 54 subjects, respectively, to verify our first measurement.


OCD patients were not characterized by a reduced HRV, as compared to normal controls. This was also found in PD patients, even in the enlarged sample.


HRV analysis in patients with OCD or PD showed that these patients were not characterized by ANS abnormalities, as no evidence was found of diminished HRV in a large sample of resting OCD and PD patients, measured sitting on a hospital bed.

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