Reduced cardiac autonomic response to deep breathing: A heritable vulnerability trait in patients with schizophrenia and their healthy first-degree relatives

Yu Wen Liu, Nian Sheng Tzeng, Chin Bin Yeh, Terry B.J. Kuo, San Yuan Huang, Chuan Chia Chang, Hsin An Chang

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Reduced resting heart rate variability (HRV) has been observed in patients with schizophrenia and their relatives, suggesting genetic predispositions. However, findings have not been consistent. We assessed cardiac autonomic response to deep breathing in first-degree relatives of patients with schizophrenia (n=45; 26 female; aged 39.69±14.82 years). Data were compared to healthy controls (n=45; 26 female; aged 38.27±9.79 years) matched for age, gender, body mass index and physical activity as well as to unmedicated patients with acute schizophrenia (n=45; 25 female; aged 37.31±12.65 years). Electrocardiograms were recorded under supine resting and deep-breathing conditions (10–12 breaths/min). We measured HRV components including variance, low-frequency (LF) power, which may reflect baroreflex function, high-frequency (HF) power, which reflects cardiac parasympathetic activity, and LF/HF ratio, which may reflect sympatho-vagal balance. Patients rather than relatives exhibited lower resting-state HRV (variance, LF, and HF) than controls. As expected, deep breathing induced an increase in variance and HF-HRV in controls. However, such a response was significantly reduced in both patients and their relatives. In conclusion, the diminished cardiac autonomic reactivity to deep breathing seen in patients and their unaffected relatives indicates that this pattern of cardiac autonomic dysregulation may be regarded as a genetic trait marker for schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-341
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatry Research
Publication statusPublished - Sep 30 2016
Externally publishedYes



  • Cardiac autonomic response
  • Deep breathing
  • First-degree relatives
  • Heart rate variability
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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