Genetic influences on autonomic nervous system activity and the pro-inflammatory state: the moderating role of mental health status (WC2010-065)


Starting date: 15/12/2009


Repeated and prolonged sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity coupled to decreased parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activity and the presence of low-grade inflammation both lead to an increase in the risk for cardiovascular disease.Genetic association and family studies suggest that genetic factors are a source of individual differences in pro-inflammatory status as well as autonomic nervous system activity, although a large scale twin study on these traits has not yet been undertaken. Based on theoretical notions, poor mental health state has been cited as a second potential contributor to chronic low-grade inflammation as well as to a shift towards higher sympathetic and lower vagal cardiac control. To date the empirical evidence for this notion is weak, and the observed association between mental health and sympathovagal balance or inflammatory cytokines or acute phase reactants are modest at best.