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Psychophysiology. 1992 May;29(3):294-301.

Third ventricle enlargement and lower heart rate levels in a high-risk sample.

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Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104.


Heart rate activity and computed tomographic measures of structural brain abnormalities were evaluated in 32 individuals with a genetic risk for schizophrenia (offspring of schizophrenic mothers). Heart rate activity was assessed in 1962 when the subjects were a mean age of 15.1 years. Diagnostic and computed tomography assessments were conducted in 1980. Compared to individuals with normal third ventricles, individuals with enlarged third ventricles evidenced significantly lower heart rate levels overall and significantly lower heart rate during rest and during the periods preceding conditioning and test for conditioning stimulus trials. These effects were independent of age, psychiatric diagnosis, and abnormalities in other brain regions. Difficulties in interpretation posed by the index of brain abnormality employed and by the 18-year time interval between the heart rate and computed tomography assessments are discussed. Together with prior evidence of a relationship between third ventricle enlargement and reduced electrodermal responsiveness in the same subjects, these findings provide a preliminary indication that enlargement of the third ventricle may involve damage to diencephalic structures involved in autonomic nervous system activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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