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Approved Research

Large-Scale Analysis of Heart Rate Variability based on Electrocardiography Data from the UK Biobank: Refining a Non-Invasive Biomarker of Psychiatric Disease

Principal Investigator: Dr Julian Koenig
Approved Research ID: 47639
Approval date: August 20th 2020

Lay summary

Common psychiatric disorders are frequently associated with somatic distress, including cardiovascular complaints. Heart rate variability (HRV) - as a marker of vagal activity - is an index commonly derived from electrical recordings of heart activity, that has been shown to be a valuable predictor of psychiatric symptom development and severity. However, existing studies are limited, given that they only include very small numbers of patients. The UK Biobank is one of the world's largest research data repositories.

Among various measures assessing mental-wellbeing and psychiatric symptoms, the UK Biobank includes ECG recordings of heart activity in more than 100,000 individuals. The analyses of HRV from these recordings is very time-consuming. Therefore, HRV has not been previously analysed from data provided in the UK Biobank. Combining mental health, HRV and brain imaging data from such a large and diverse sample of participants, as provided in the UK Biobank, would help to assess the utility of HRV for clinical practice, and will help to refine its use in research. The key goal of the project is to analyse the raw data provided by the UK Biobank, allowing for the analyses of HRV in association with mental health and brain structure in this large sample.