From Psychological Moments to Mortality
A Multidisciplinary Synthesis on Vagal Function
The National Institute of Mental Health is now presenting affective disorders like major depression and generalised anxiety disorder as brain disorders. But are they? I will present findings that colleagues and I have published over the last 5 years, highlighting the adverse impact of these disorders on resting-state heart rate variability (HRV), a psychophysiological marker of vagal function. HRV reductions may have important functional significance for social approach behaviour, emotion-regulation and psychological flexibility in the face of stress. HRV reductions may also reflect vagal dysregulation over a variety of allostatic systems and the multisystemic adaptations to maintain homeostasis. I will argue that resting state HRV may provide a structural link between mental and physical health, such that reductions in HRV may contribute to a pathophysiological ‘wear and tear’ effect on the body leading to increased morbidity and mortality in patients with psychiatric illness. Implications for better treatment of these patients will be discussed.
Dr Andrew Kemp, University of Sydney
Thursday 12th November
1.00pm to 2.00pm in 01 AC 02