Exposure of healthy people to lipopolysaccharide (LPS; endotoxin) produces a pro-inflammatory response, subjective symptoms, and decreased heart rate variability (HRV). Given the efficacy of HRV biofeedback (BF) for treating asthma, the large autonomic effects of HRV BF, and the link between vagus nerve activity and inflammation, we hypothesized that HRV BF would dampen the acute manifestations of systemic inflammation induced by LPS challenge. Healthy participants age 18-40 were randomly assigned to four-one-hour training sessions of either HRV BF (n = 6) or a control 15/min paced breathing condition (n = 5) prior to acute experimentally induced LPS exposure. Participants were coached to do the procedures for 10 min each at five hourly time points after LPS injection, and then 2 h later. Subjective symptoms, HRV parameters, and plasma cytokine levels were measured at each time point, 2 h afterward, and the following morning. Participants were able to perform the procedures both during four pre-exposure training sessions and while experiencing LPS-induced symptoms. The HRV BF group showed significant attenuation of the LPS-induced decline in HRV for the 6 h following LPS exposure, suggesting that HRV BF decreased autonomic dysfunction produced by LPS-induced inflammation. HRV BF also reduced symptoms of headache and eye sensitivity to light, but did not affect LPS-induced levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines or symptoms of nausea, muscle aches, or feverishness. Further evaluation of HRV BF appears to be warranted among patients with inflammatory conditions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Applied Psychology
- Vagus nerve