Heart rate variability is associated with thermal heat pain threshold in males, but not females

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Previous research has suggested that heart rate variability (HRV; the variability in the interval between successive heartbeats) can predict the perception of experimentally-induced pain (i.e., pain sensitivity). However, little research has sought to investigate sex-specific associations between HRV and pain sensitivity. This is an important consideration, given that sex differences in resting HRV have been observed, and there has been extensive debate about sex differences in sensitivity to experimentally-induced pain. We examined whether the association between resting HRV and sensitivity to experimentally-induced pain differed in men and women. Fifty-one pain free individuals (26 women, mean age = 21.9 years) participated. Resting electrocardiography (ECG) was collected during a paced breathing task (15 cycles per minute), and measures of HRV were extracted via Fast Fourier Transformation. Thermal heat pain threshold (i.e., the point at which the sensation was first perceived as painful, rather than warm) was measured with a Medoc Pathway Pain and Sensory Evaluation System. There were no sex differences in resting HRV or thermal heat pain threshold, nor did sex moderate the relationship between HRV and thermal heat pain threshold. However, there were significant positive relationships between thermal heat pain threshold and LF-HRV (r = 0.47), and HF-HRV (r = 0.43) in men, but not in women. The results suggest that higher pain threshold appears to be related to greater engagement of the inhibitory parasympathetic nervous system in men only, and that other biopsychosocial mechanisms may contribute to experimental pain experience in women. Future research is needed to study these mechanisms further, accounting for other factors known to influence nociceptive and cardiovascular regulatory processes (e.g., ethnicity, hormones).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-43
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Volume131
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

Keywords

  • Autonomic
  • Heart rate variability
  • Pain
  • Pain perception
  • Parasympathetic
  • Sex differences

Cite this

@article{ac98d6348d8a43c69c76712281f07a48,
title = "Heart rate variability is associated with thermal heat pain threshold in males, but not females",
abstract = "Previous research has suggested that heart rate variability (HRV; the variability in the interval between successive heartbeats) can predict the perception of experimentally-induced pain (i.e., pain sensitivity). However, little research has sought to investigate sex-specific associations between HRV and pain sensitivity. This is an important consideration, given that sex differences in resting HRV have been observed, and there has been extensive debate about sex differences in sensitivity to experimentally-induced pain. We examined whether the association between resting HRV and sensitivity to experimentally-induced pain differed in men and women. Fifty-one pain free individuals (26 women, mean age = 21.9 years) participated. Resting electrocardiography (ECG) was collected during a paced breathing task (15 cycles per minute), and measures of HRV were extracted via Fast Fourier Transformation. Thermal heat pain threshold (i.e., the point at which the sensation was first perceived as painful, rather than warm) was measured with a Medoc Pathway Pain and Sensory Evaluation System. There were no sex differences in resting HRV or thermal heat pain threshold, nor did sex moderate the relationship between HRV and thermal heat pain threshold. However, there were significant positive relationships between thermal heat pain threshold and LF-HRV (r = 0.47), and HF-HRV (r = 0.43) in men, but not in women. The results suggest that higher pain threshold appears to be related to greater engagement of the inhibitory parasympathetic nervous system in men only, and that other biopsychosocial mechanisms may contribute to experimental pain experience in women. Future research is needed to study these mechanisms further, accounting for other factors known to influence nociceptive and cardiovascular regulatory processes (e.g., ethnicity, hormones).",
keywords = "Autonomic, Heart rate variability, Pain, Pain perception, Parasympathetic, Sex differences",
author = "Tracy, {Lincoln M.} and Julian Koenig and Nellie Georgiou-Karistianis and Gibson, {Stephen J.} and Giummarra, {Melita J.}",
year = "2018",
month = "9",
doi = "10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2018.02.017",
language = "English",
volume = "131",
pages = "37--43",
journal = "International Journal of Psychophysiology",
issn = "0167-8760",
publisher = "Elsevier",

}

Heart rate variability is associated with thermal heat pain threshold in males, but not females. / Tracy, Lincoln M.; Koenig, Julian; Georgiou-Karistianis, Nellie; Gibson, Stephen J.; Giummarra, Melita J.

In: International Journal of Psychophysiology, Vol. 131, 09.2018, p. 37-43.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Heart rate variability is associated with thermal heat pain threshold in males, but not females

AU - Tracy, Lincoln M.

AU - Koenig, Julian

AU - Georgiou-Karistianis, Nellie

AU - Gibson, Stephen J.

AU - Giummarra, Melita J.

PY - 2018/9

Y1 - 2018/9

N2 - Previous research has suggested that heart rate variability (HRV; the variability in the interval between successive heartbeats) can predict the perception of experimentally-induced pain (i.e., pain sensitivity). However, little research has sought to investigate sex-specific associations between HRV and pain sensitivity. This is an important consideration, given that sex differences in resting HRV have been observed, and there has been extensive debate about sex differences in sensitivity to experimentally-induced pain. We examined whether the association between resting HRV and sensitivity to experimentally-induced pain differed in men and women. Fifty-one pain free individuals (26 women, mean age = 21.9 years) participated. Resting electrocardiography (ECG) was collected during a paced breathing task (15 cycles per minute), and measures of HRV were extracted via Fast Fourier Transformation. Thermal heat pain threshold (i.e., the point at which the sensation was first perceived as painful, rather than warm) was measured with a Medoc Pathway Pain and Sensory Evaluation System. There were no sex differences in resting HRV or thermal heat pain threshold, nor did sex moderate the relationship between HRV and thermal heat pain threshold. However, there were significant positive relationships between thermal heat pain threshold and LF-HRV (r = 0.47), and HF-HRV (r = 0.43) in men, but not in women. The results suggest that higher pain threshold appears to be related to greater engagement of the inhibitory parasympathetic nervous system in men only, and that other biopsychosocial mechanisms may contribute to experimental pain experience in women. Future research is needed to study these mechanisms further, accounting for other factors known to influence nociceptive and cardiovascular regulatory processes (e.g., ethnicity, hormones).

AB - Previous research has suggested that heart rate variability (HRV; the variability in the interval between successive heartbeats) can predict the perception of experimentally-induced pain (i.e., pain sensitivity). However, little research has sought to investigate sex-specific associations between HRV and pain sensitivity. This is an important consideration, given that sex differences in resting HRV have been observed, and there has been extensive debate about sex differences in sensitivity to experimentally-induced pain. We examined whether the association between resting HRV and sensitivity to experimentally-induced pain differed in men and women. Fifty-one pain free individuals (26 women, mean age = 21.9 years) participated. Resting electrocardiography (ECG) was collected during a paced breathing task (15 cycles per minute), and measures of HRV were extracted via Fast Fourier Transformation. Thermal heat pain threshold (i.e., the point at which the sensation was first perceived as painful, rather than warm) was measured with a Medoc Pathway Pain and Sensory Evaluation System. There were no sex differences in resting HRV or thermal heat pain threshold, nor did sex moderate the relationship between HRV and thermal heat pain threshold. However, there were significant positive relationships between thermal heat pain threshold and LF-HRV (r = 0.47), and HF-HRV (r = 0.43) in men, but not in women. The results suggest that higher pain threshold appears to be related to greater engagement of the inhibitory parasympathetic nervous system in men only, and that other biopsychosocial mechanisms may contribute to experimental pain experience in women. Future research is needed to study these mechanisms further, accounting for other factors known to influence nociceptive and cardiovascular regulatory processes (e.g., ethnicity, hormones).

KW - Autonomic

KW - Heart rate variability

KW - Pain

KW - Pain perception

KW - Parasympathetic

KW - Sex differences

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85046069721&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2018.02.017

DO - 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2018.02.017

M3 - Article

VL - 131

SP - 37

EP - 43

JO - International Journal of Psychophysiology

JF - International Journal of Psychophysiology

SN - 0167-8760

ER -