No effects on heart rate variability in depression after treatment with dorsomedial prefrontal intermittent theta burst stimulation

Keywords: Depressive disorder, non-invasive brain stimulation, autonomic nervous system, sympathetic, parasympathetic, heart–brain connection


Background: The purpose of this study was to investigate whether treatment of a depressive episode with intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) over the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) had any effects on heart rate variability (HRV). We also investigated if changes in HRV covaried with symptom change after iTBS and if HRV could predict symptom change.

Methods: We included 49 patients with a current depressive episode. All were randomized to receive a double-blind treatment course with active or sham iTBS over the DMPFC. HRV data were obtained from 1 h of night data before and after the iTBS. The standard deviation of the RR interval (SDNN) was chosen as primary outcome measure. Depressive, negative, and anxiety symptoms as well as self-rated health were assessed by clinicians or by self-report.

Results: The group×time linear mixed model revealed no effect of iTBS on SDNN (estimate = −1.8, 95% confidence interval [CI]: −19.9 to 16.2). There were neither correlations between HRV and depressive, negative, or anxiety symptom change after iTBS nor with self-assessed health. No predictive value of HRV was found.

Conclusions: Treatment for depression with dorsomedial iTBS had neither negative nor positive effects on the cardiac autonomic nervous system.


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How to Cite
Bengtsson J., Olsson E., Persson J., & Bodén R. (2023). No effects on heart rate variability in depression after treatment with dorsomedial prefrontal intermittent theta burst stimulation. Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences, 128(1).