Heart Rate Variability used to assess changing autonomic functionin Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies.

  • David Glover

Student thesis: Phd


The dorsal vagal nucleus (DMNX) and nucleus ambiguus (NA) are two anatomicallydistinct regions of the medulla oblongata of the brainstem involved with the control ofthe heart on a beat to beat basis. The vagus nerve has parasympathetic cell bodieslocated in the DMNX and NA. The presence of the disease associated prion (PrPD) inthe DMNX and NA is used in the post mortem diagnosis of transmissible spongiformencephalopathies (TSEs) in animals. It has been shown that PrPD alters theneuronal discharge properties of infected tissue (Barrow, Holmgren et al.1999;Collinge, Whittington et al. 1994). I wished to investigate whether a change inheart rate variability (HRV) influenced by the presence of PrPD deposits in brainstemareas of animals and people incubating TSEs would be detectable.Recordings from control and infected sheep, cattle and humans, consisting of threehundred-second samples of electrocardiogram (ECG) were collected from speciesspecific healthy controls and subjects incubating TSE disease. Data were digitised ata sampling frequency of 1kHz and were translated and analysed using standardsoftware (CED Spike2 ; IBM SPSS). Artefacts and missed beats were correctedbased upon screening by eye. ECG R-wave timings were obtained in order todetermine variability in the R-R intervals. An instantaneous tachogram wasconstructed from which power spectra were calculated.Power spectral analysis along with simpler time domain estimates of HRV, such asRMSSD, were employed to investigate differences between control and infectedanimals. In addition R wave variability within each breath was utilized to examine thevagal control of the heart in relation to breathing and thus investigate a change infunction of the specific neurological areas of the brainstem used as diagnostic criteriafor such diseases.It was found there were significant differences (p
Date of Award31 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Eisner (Supervisor)


  • scrapie
  • BSE
  • vCJD
  • heart rate variability
  • prion

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