Vagal tone is reduced during paced breathing in patients with the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) often complain of an
inability to maintain activity levels and a variety of
autonomic-like symptoms that make everyday activity
intolerable at times. The purpose of the study was to
determine if there were differences in vagal activity at fixed
breathing rates in women with CFS.

Twelve women with the diagnosis of CFS between the ages of 32 and
59 years volunteered for the study. Healthy women, who were
between the ages of 30 and 49, served as controls. Full signal
electrocardiograph and respiratory signals were collected
during a paced breathing protocol of three fixed breathing
rates (8, 12 and 18 breaths/min) performed in the sitting and
standing postures. Vagal activity was analyzed by means of
heart rate spectral analysis to determine the subject's
response to specific breathing rates and postures. Heart rate
variability was used as a non-invasive method of measuring the
parasympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system.

Using this method, although there was significantly less vagal
power in the sitting versus the standing postures for both
groups, the overall vagal power was significantly lower (p <
0.034) in the CFS group versus healthy controls. Vagal power
was also significantly lower (p < 0.01 to p < 0.05) at all
breathing rates in both postures except while standing and
breathing at 18 breaths/min. Knowledge of the differences in
vagal activity for CFS patients may allow stratification for
the analysis of other research variables.

Sisto SA, Tapp W, Drastal S, Bergen M, DeMasi I, Cordero D, Natelson B

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