Heart Rate Variability and Circulating Inflammatory Markers in Midlife

Author: Nicholas V Alen1, Anna M Parenteau1, Richard P Sloan2, Camelia E Hostinar1
1 Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis.
2 Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University.
Conference/Journal: Brain Behav Immun Health
Date published: 2021 Aug 1
Other: Volume ID: 15 , Pages: 100273 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/j.bbih.2021.100273. , Word Count: 196

Theoretical perspectives and empirical evidence suggest that the parasympathetic nervous system engages in active monitoring and moderating of inflammatory processes. A clearer understanding of the bidirectional communication between the parasympathetic nervous system and the immune system could lead to novel clinical interventions for inflammatory illnesses. The current study used a large (N = 836) nationally representative sample of adults in the United States to investigate the relations between resting parasympathetic modulation of the heart, indexed through both high frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV) and low frequency heart rate variability (LF-HRV), and six markers of circulating inflammation. Statistical analyses revealed robust inverse relations between HF-HRV and interleukin-6 (IL6), C-reactive protein (CRP), and fibrinogen, with or without covariate adjustment. Similar inverse relations were observed between LF-HRV and IL6 and CRP. No significant relations were observed between HRV and either inflammatory adhesion molecules (E-selectin, intracellular adhesion molecule-1) or soluble IL6 receptor. Results are consistent with the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway and suggest that parasympathetic modulation of inflammation through the vagus nerve may act on specific inflammatory molecules more than others.

Keywords: Inflammation; autonomic nervous system; heart rate variability; immune system; vagus nerve.

PMID: 34268499 PMCID: PMC8277115 (available on 2022-08-01) DOI: 10.1016/j.bbih.2021.100273