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Increased Vagal Tone During Winter in Subsyndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder


Austen, ML and Wilson, GV, Increased Vagal Tone During Winter in Subsyndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder, Biological Psychiatry , 50, (1) pp. 28-34. ISSN 0006-3223 (2001) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1016/S0006-3223(00)01102-1


Background: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterized by recurrent winter depression with summer remissions and/or hypomania. Further symptoms include hypersomnia, increased appetite, weight gain, fatigue, and social withdrawal, which may indicate autonomic changes during winter. Methods: Measurements of respiratory sinus arrhythmia, heart rate (HR), and skin conductance level (SCL) were taken from 32 participants in subsyndromal SAD and control groups (eight male and eight female subjects in each group) in autumn and winter to determine any change in autonomic function. Measures were taken at baseline and during two stressor tasks. Single determinations of blood pressure, sublingual temperature, depression, aerobic fitness, and body mass index were also measured at each session. Replication in a second data collection period over subsequent winter and spring periods was conducted with an additional 32 participants to extend the findings and to counterbalance order effects in testing. Data were combined to produce "winter" and "nonwinter" test periods and statistically corrected for testing order. Results: Respiratory sinus arrhythmia differences indicated that SAD subjects have increased vagal tone in winter. Both groups show a decrease for HR and increases for SCL and diastolic blood pressure in winter. Conclusions: Seasonal affective disorder may show similarities with hibernation, and the results may indicate mechanisms different from those of nonseasonal depression. © 2001 Society of Biological Psychiatry.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Biological psychology
Research Field:Behavioural neuroscience
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Behaviour and health
UTAS Author:Austen, ML (Mrs Margaret Austen)
UTAS Author:Wilson, GV (Dr George Wilson)
ID Code:21264
Year Published:2001
Web of Science® Times Cited:22
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2001-08-01
Last Modified:2002-05-21

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