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Original research
Diurnal variation in autonomic regulation among patients with genotyped Rett syndrome


Background Rett syndrome is a severe neurological disorder with a range of disabling autonomic and respiratory symptoms and resulting predominantly from variants in the methyl-CpG binding protein 2 gene on the long arm of the X-chromosome. As basic research begins to suggest potential treatments, sensitive measures of the dynamic phenotype are needed to evaluate the results of these research efforts. Here we test the hypothesis that the physiological fingerprint of Rett syndrome in a naturalistic environment differs from that of controls, and differs among genotypes within Rett syndrome.

Methods A comprehensive array of heart rate variability, cardiorespiratory coupling and cardiac repolarisation measures were evaluated from an existing database of overnight and daytime inhome ambulatory recordings in 47 cases and matched controls.

Results Differences between girls with Rett syndrome and matched controls were apparent in a range of autonomic measures, and suggest a shift towards sympathetic activation and/or parasympathetic inactivation. Daily temporal trends analysed in the context of circadian rhythms reveal alterations in amplitude and phase of diurnal patterns of autonomic balance. Further analysis by genotype class confirms a graded presentation of the Rett syndrome phenotype such that patients with early truncating mutations were most different from controls, while late truncating and missense mutations were least different from controls.

Conclusions Comprehensive autonomic measures from extensive inhome physiological measurements can detect subtle variations in the phenotype of girls with Rett syndrome, suggesting these techniques are suitable for guiding novel therapies.

  • rett syndrome
  • autonomic regulation
  • heart rate variability
  • PHOX2B

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