Identifying Issues at the Heart of Depression: Using Wearable ECG Monitor Data and Daily Assessments to Predict Transitions Within Depressive Episodes.

e-health major depressive disorder Mobile electrocardiogram devices

dr. H. Riese
dr. ir A.M. van Roon
Y.K. Kunkels

Nature of the research:
Wireless Electrocardiography (ECG) Monitors, E-health, Sensor data, Physiology-augmented Depression Research

Fields of study:
health sciences psychiatry cardiology

Background / introduction
Modern and innovative sensor technology has opened the door for long-term, high-resolution ambulatory assessments of patients. On the other hand, clear and concise information on how antidepressant medication affects the synergy between depressive mood and heart rate variability (HRV) is still lacking. As such, unique large-scale data collection studies held at the UMCG, such as Trans-ID (, now offer us opportunities to investigate and unravel how medication, mood, and HRV are linked together.
Research question / problem definition
1. How do different antidepressant medications influence both symptoms of depression and HRV?

2. How are symptoms of depression associated with HRV, and is this association mainly driven by the effects of antidepressants?

3. How does HRV and antidepressant medication influence transitions in depressive episodes?
Depending on their personal health circumstances, around 100 participants were divided into either a tapering group or a recovery group. Participants filled out 5 daily questionnaires, performed two daily ECG measurements, and wore a activity monitor for 4 months. During the course of the study, the tapering group started tapering the dos of their antidepressant medication. Here, we are mostly interested in those who relapsed after tapering, as we expect to find indications of a relapse in both sensor- and questionnaire data well before a transition. The recovery group received behavioral activation treatment during the course of the study. In this case we would also expect to find indications of transitions, albeit in a different direction.

We are interested in offering motivated students the opportunity to work with real-life (sensor) data from state-of-the-art wearable devices. We are looking for a student who has affinity with our main topics and who is willing to invest in developing skills related to evaluating heart rate data, researching medical scientific literature, and applying advanced statistical techniques. Our preference goes to a team player who is able to take initiative and who has good English writing skills.
Given the uniqueness of the dataset and the possibilities for high-impact research with this study, we offer the possibility for excellent and highly motivated students to write their MD/PhD proposal within this project.
This cooperative project is part of the Interdisciplinairy Center for Psychopathology and Emotion regulation (ICPE,, the iLab (, and the Vaatlab (Vascular Laboratory UMCG). The ICPE aims to investigate factors that influence the trajectories and results of common psychiatric health issues. The iLab is a cooperative partnership for facilitating idiographic (within individuals) research. The Vaatlab of the UMCG is the knowledge hub for research and analysis of vascular and heart functions.
We have a very active research group, composed of highly motivated junior and senior researchers. We offer an inspirational and informative environment for (PhD-)students to grow and hone their skills. We have regular research meetings wherein ideas are discussed in an open and constructive manner.
Licht, C., de Geus, E., Zitman, F., Hoogendijk, W., van Dyck, R., & Penninx, B. (2008). Association Between Major Depressive Disorder and Heart Rate Variability in the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA). Archives Of General Psychiatry, 65(12), 1358. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.65.12.1358

Malik, M., Bigger, J., Camm, A., Kleiger, R., Malliani, A., Moss, A., & Schwartz, P. (1996). Heart rate variability: Standards of measurement, physiological interpretation, and clinical use. European Heart Journal, 17(3), 354-381. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.eurheartj.a014868
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Laatst gewijzigd: 23 februari 2012