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Schizophr Res. 2017 Jun;184:14-20. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2016.11.025. Epub 2016 Nov 22.

High psychosis liability is associated with altered autonomic balance during exposure to Virtual Reality social stressors.

Author information

1
Parnassia Psychiatric Institute, Kiwistraat 43, 2552 DH The Hague, The Netherlands. Electronic address: j.counotte@parnassia.nl.
2
Parnassia Psychiatric Institute, Kiwistraat 43, 2552 DH The Hague, The Netherlands; VU University, Department of Clinical Psychology, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
3
University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Department of Vascular Medicine, PO Box 30.001, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands.
4
GGZ Delfland, Sint Jorisweg 2, 2612 GA Delft, The Netherlands.
5
Parnassia Psychiatric Institute, Kiwistraat 43, 2552 DH The Hague, The Netherlands; Maastricht University, Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands; University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Department of Psychiatry, PO Box 30.001, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Social stressors are associated with an increased risk of psychosis. Stress sensitisation is thought to be an underlying mechanism and may be reflected in an altered autonomic stress response. Using an experimental Virtual Reality design, the autonomic stress response to social stressors was examined in participants with different liability to psychosis.

METHOD:

Fifty-five patients with recent onset psychotic disorder, 20 patients at ultra-high risk for psychosis, 42 siblings of patients with psychosis and 53 controls were exposed to social stressors (crowdedness, ethnic minority status and hostility) in a Virtual Reality environment. Heart rate variability parameters and skin conductance levels were measured at baseline and during Virtual Reality experiments.

RESULTS:

High psychosis liability groups had significantly increased heart rate and decreased heart rate variability compared to low liability groups both at baseline and during Virtual Reality experiments. Both low frequency (LF) and high frequency (HF) power were reduced, while the LF/HF ratio was similar between groups. The number of virtual social stressors significantly affected heart rate, HF, LF/HF and skin conductance level. There was no interaction between psychosis liability and amount of virtual social stress.

CONCLUSION:

High liability to psychosis is associated with decreased parasympathetic activity in virtual social environments, which reflects generally high levels of arousal, rather than increased autonomic reactivity to social stressors.

KEYWORDS:

Autonomic response; Heart rate variability; Psychosis; Social stress; Virtual Reality

PMID:
27887781
DOI:
10.1016/j.schres.2016.11.025
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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