A rationale for considering heart/brain axis control in neuropsychiatric disease

Lillian Garrett, Dietrich Trümbach, Nadine Spielmann, Wolfgang Wurst, Helmut Fuchs, Valerie Gailus-Durner, Martin Hrabě de Angelis, Sabine M. Hölter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Neuropsychiatric diseases (NPD) represent a significant global disease burden necessitating innovative approaches to pathogenic understanding, biomarker identification and therapeutic strategy. Emerging evidence implicates heart/brain axis malfunction in NPD etiology, particularly via the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and brain central autonomic network (CAN) interaction. This heart/brain inter-relationship harbors potentially novel NPD diagnosis and treatment avenues. Nevertheless, the lack of multidisciplinary clinical approaches as well as a limited appreciation of molecular underpinnings has stymied progress. Large-scale preclinical multi-systemic functional data can therefore provide supplementary insight into CAN and ANS interaction. We here present an overview of the heart/brain axis in NPD and establish a unique rationale for utilizing a preclinical cardiovascular disease risk gene set to glean insights into heart/brain axis control in NPD. With a top-down approach focusing on genes influencing electrocardiogram ANS function, we combined hierarchical clustering of corresponding regional CAN expression data and functional enrichment analysis to reveal known and novel molecular insights into CAN and NPD. Through ‘support vector machine’ inquiries for classification and literature validation, we further pinpointed the top 32 genes highly expressed in CAN brain structures altering both heart rate/heart rate variability (HRV) and behavior. Our observations underscore the potential of HRV/hyperactivity behavior as endophenotypes for multimodal disease biomarker identification to index aberrant executive brain functioning with relevance for NPD. This work heralds the potential of large-scale preclinical functional genetic data for understanding CAN/ANS control and introduces a stepwise design leveraging preclinical data to unearth novel heart/brain axis control genes in NPD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-350
Number of pages20
JournalMammalian Genome
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023


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