Background: The daily pattern of motor activity and the autonomic cardiovascular regulation were studied in major depression to quantify changes in psychomotor function and autonomic cardiac functioning. Additionally, relationships between motor activity parameters, cardiovascular measures and specific clinical features were examined. Methods: Wrist-actigraphy was used to monitor 24-h motor activity for 67 unmedicated (unipolar) depressed inpatients and 64 control subjects. During supine rest, spectral analysis was applied to assess HR and SBP variability, a baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) index and the respiratory frequency, in addition to mean heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) levels for the patient group and a second control group (N=51). Results: The patients showed a lower motor activity level and a reduced fragmentation of motor activity during wake, and a higher motor activity level and a decreased immobility during sleep. The mean HR and DBP level and the respiratory frequency were higher in the patient group than in the control group, but no differences in HR and SBP variability or BRS were found. Furthermore, motor activity parameters and cardiovascular measures of the patients were related to agitation and retardation and overall, patients with lower motor activity levels demonstrated lower SBP levels. Conclusions: This study confirms that the 24-h pattern of motor activity is altered in unmedicated depressed inpatients, but limited evidence was found for an autonomic cardiac dysfunction. Within the patient group there were relationships between motor activity parameters, cardiovascular measures, and clinical features, but the underlying neurobiological pathways need to be further explored.

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Journal of Affective Disorders
Department of Psychiatry

Volkers, A.C, Tulen, J.H.M, van den Broek, W.W, Bruijn, J.A, Passchier, J, & Pepplinkhuizen, L. (2003). Motor activity and autonomic cardiac functioning in major depressive disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 76(1-3), 23–30. doi:10.1016/S0165-0327(02)00066-6