Vol. 5, No. 1, 1999 Page 4

Hostility, abnormal heart period variations associated
in young 'high-risk' urban boys

Research indicates that hostile behavior in adults is associated with reductions in "heart period variability" (changes in beat-to-beat intervals). Daniel Pine and colleagues recently reported that this association holds true for young, at-risk, urban boy ys as well.

The researchers studied 69 boys identified as younger brothers of delinquents. Subjects received a psychiatric evaluation, and their heart period variability (HPV) was assessed while the children were at rest and lying down.

Pine and colleagues report that measures of both "externalizing" psychopathology (such as hostility and disruptive behavior) and "internalizing" psychopathology (such as anxiety) were associated with reductions in components of heart period variability in nfluenced by parasympathetic nervous system activity. "These associations," they say, "could not be explained by a number of potentially confounding variables, such as age, ethnicity, social class, body size, or family history of hypertension."

In addition, the researchers found that a family history of hypertension predicted both higher levels of pathological behavior in subjects, and reduced heart period variability. However, they note that "the association between externalizing psychopatholog gy and reduced HPV was significantly independent of the association between familial hypertension and reduced HPV."

The researchers note that a growing body of evidence links hostility to cardiac abnormalities. (For instance, hostility and aggression appear to be associated with an increased risk of ischemic disease, hypertension, and sudden death due to cardiac failur re.) They suggest that the associations seen between HPV and behavior in both childhood and adulthood "raise the possibility that psychiatric symptoms and autonomic control of the heart are influenced by similar neural systems in chi ildren and adults, that is, the parasympathetic system and systems that affect HPV through their impact on the parasympathetic system."


"Heart period variability and psychopathology in urban boys at risk for delinquency," Daniel S. Pine, Gail A. Wasserman, Laurie Miller, Jeremy D. Coplan, Emilia Bagiella, Pavel Kovelenku, Michael M. Myers, and Richard P. Sloan, Psychophysiology, Vol. 3 35, 1998, pp. 521-529. Address: Daniel S. Pine, New York State Psychiatric Institute, Unit 78, 722 W. 168th Street, New York, NY 10032.

Related Article: [2002, Vol. 8]

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