Juvenile onset depression alters cardiac autonomic balance in response to psychological and physical challenges

Lauren M. Bylsma, Ilya Yaroslavsky, Jonathan Rottenberg, J. Richard Jennings, Charles J. George, Eniko Kiss, Krisztina Kapornai, Kitti Halas, Roberta Dochnal, Eszter Lefkovics, István Benák, Ildikó Baji, Ágnes Vetró, Maria Kovacs

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Cardiac autonomic balance (CAB) indexes the ratio of parasympathetic to sympathetic activation (Berntson, Norman, Hawkley, & Cacioppo, 2008), and is believed to reflect overall autonomic flexibility in the face of environmental challenges. However, CAB has not been examined in depression. We examined changes in CAB and other physiological variables in 179 youth with a history of juvenile onset depression (JOD) and 161 healthy controls, in response to two psychological (unsolvable puzzle, sad film) and two physical (handgrip, and forehead cold pressor) challenges. In repeated measures analyses, controls showed expected reductions in CAB for both the handgrip and unsolvable puzzle, reflecting a shift to sympathetic relative to parasympathetic activation. By contrast, JOD youth showed increased CAB from baseline for both tasks (p' s< .05). No effects were found for the forehead cold pressor or sad film tasks, suggesting that CAB differences may arise under conditions requiring greater attentional control or sustained effort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-174
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2015



  • Cardiac autonomic balance
  • Cardiac autonomic regulation
  • Juvenile onset depression
  • Parasympathetic nervous system
  • Reactivity
  • Self regulation
  • Sympathetic nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

Cite this

Bylsma, L. M., Yaroslavsky, I., Rottenberg, J., Jennings, J. R., George, C. J., Kiss, E., Kapornai, K., Halas, K., Dochnal, R., Lefkovics, E., Benák, I., Baji, I., Vetró, Á., & Kovacs, M. (2015). Juvenile onset depression alters cardiac autonomic balance in response to psychological and physical challenges. Biological Psychology, 110, 167-174. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2015.07.003