Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci.  2019 Nov;17(4):459-474. 10.9758/cpn.2019.17.4.459.

Heart and Brain Interaction of Psychiatric Illness: A Review Focused on Heart Rate Variability, Cognitive Function, and Quantitative Electroencephalography

  • 1Department of Psychology, Keimyung University, Daegu, Korea.
  • 2Department of Biomedicine and Health Sciences, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Institute of Biomedical Industry, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea.
  • 4Department of Psychiatry, Ilsan Paik Hospital, Inje University College of Medicine, Goyang, Korea.
  • 5Clinical Emotion and Cognition Research Laboratory, Ilsan Paik Hospital, Inje University College of Medicine, Goyang, Korea.


Heart rate variability (HRV) reflects beat-to-beat variability in the heart rate due to the dynamic interplay of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. HRV is considered an index of the functional status of the autonomic nervous system. A decrease in HRV is thus observed in individuals with autonomic dysfunction. Abnormal HRV has been reported in a range of mental disorders. In this review, we give an overview of HRV in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), schizophrenia, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), one of whose core symptoms is cognitive dysfunction. The association between HRV and cognitive function is highlighted in this review. This review consists of three main sections. In the first section, we examine how HRV in patients with MDD, schizophrenia, and PTSD is characterized, and how it is different when compared to that in healthy controls. In the second section, beyond the heart itself, we discuss the intimate connection between the heart and the brain, focusing on how HRV interacts with quantitative electroencephalography (qEEG) in the context of physiological changes in the sleep cycle. Lastly, we finish the review with the examination of the association between HRV and cognitive function. The overall findings indicate that the reduction in HRV is one of main manifestations in MDD, schizophrenia, and PTSD, and also more generally HRV is closely linked to the change in qEEG and also to individual differences in cognitive performance.


Heart rate variability; Major depressive disorder; Schizophrenia; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Electroencephalography; Cognition

MeSH Terms

Autonomic Nervous System
Depressive Disorder, Major
Heart Rate*
Mental Disorders
Parasympathetic Nervous System
Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
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