Vagal Flexibility Mediates the Association Between Resting Vagal Activity and Cognitive Performance Stability Across Varying Socioemotional Demands.
ABSTRACT: Vagal flexibility describes the ability to modulate cardiac vagal responses to fit a dynamic range of challenges. Extant theory on vagal function implies that vagal flexibility is a mediating mechanism through which resting vagal activity, a putative individual difference related to self-regulation, affects adaptive behavior and cognition. Nevertheless, little research has directly tested this hypothesis, thereby leaving fundamental mechanisms of vagal function and adaptability unclear. To this end, 47 healthy subjects completed a 5 min baseline followed by Stroop tasks combined with concurrent auditory distractors. There were four different Stroop task conditions that varied the social and emotional content of the auditory distractors. Electrocardiogram was continuously recorded to assess vagal responses to each condition as heart rate variability [root mean square of successive differences (RMSSDs)] reactivity. Vagal flexibility significantly mediated the association between resting vagal activity and stability of inhibition performance (Stroop interference) scores. In particular, higher resting RMSSD was related to higher standard deviation of RMSSD reactivity scores, reflecting greater differences in RMSSD reactivity between distractor conditions (i.e., greater vagal flexibility). Greater vagal flexibility was in turn related to more stability in Stroop interference across the same conditions. The mean of RMSSD reactivity scores across conditions was not significantly related to resting RMSSD or stability in Stroop performance, and mean RMSSD reactivity did not mediate relations between resting RMSSD and stability in Stroop performance. Overall, findings suggest that vagal flexibility may promote the effects of resting vagal activity on stabilizing cognitive inhibition in the face of environmental perturbations.
Project description:We evaluated the effect of physical training, stress, anthropometric measures, and gender upon the reactivity and recovery of the heart rate variability (HRV) during a cardiorespiratory test. Professors (N = 54) were evaluated using the following: physical training: time, frequency, and length of physical exercise; resting heart rate (HR); maximum HR; and recovery HR; stress: stress symptoms, work stress, vital events, and perceived stress; anthropometric measures: body mass index, waist circumference (WC), waist-hip ratio (WHR), and fat percentage (FP); and HRV before, during, and after the test. The HRV decreased during and increased after the test. Increased recovery HR was associated with the decreased vagal output during the test, and decreased recovery HR was associated with the increased posttest vagal input. The higher the work control and stress symptoms of men and the higher the perceived stress for both genders, the lower the vagal output during the test. The lower stress symptom and work control of men and the lower work demand of women were associated with the posttest vagal increase. The increased WC and decreased WHR of men were associated with the lower vagal output during the test and the lower posttest vagal increase. The lower FP also was associated with the greater recovery.
Project description:Vagal reactivity to stress in children has been associated with future psychiatric outcomes. However, results have been mixed possibly because these effects are in opposite direction in boys and girls. These sex differences are relevant in the context of development of psychopathology, whereby the rates of psychiatric disorders differ by sex. In this study, we aimed to examine the association between vagal reactivity, assessed as a reduction in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) in response to a challenge, and the development of future oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) symptoms in boys and girls. In addition, we examine the specific associations with ODD symptom dimensions, named irritability and headstrong. We hypothesized that increased vagal reactivity was associated with increased ODD symptoms in girls and a reduction in ODD symptoms in boys.Participants were members of the Wirral Child Health and Development Study, a prospective epidemiological longitudinal study of 1,233 first-time mothers recruited at 20 weeks' gestation. RSA during four nonstressful and one stressful (still-face) procedures was assessed when children were aged 29 weeks in a sample stratified by adversity (n = 270). Maternal reports of ODD symptoms were collected when children were 2.5 years old (n = 253), 3.5 years old (n = 826), and 5 years old (n = 770). Structural equation modeling (SEM) was employed to test our hypotheses.There was a significant sex difference in the prediction of ODD symptoms due to the opposite directionality in which increasing vagal reactivity was associated with an increase in ODD symptoms in girls and a reduction of ODD symptoms in boys. This Sex by Vagal reactivity interaction was common for both ODD dimensions, with no sex by dimension-specific associations.Physiological reactivity to a stressful situation predicts differently ODD symptoms in boys and girls very early in life, with no difference across irritability and headstrong components. Findings are discussed in the context of the several mechanisms involved on the later development of distinct psychiatric disorders in boys and girls.
Project description:We examined the neural correlates of resting cardiac vagal activity in a sample of 432 participants (206 male; 61 African American; mean age 42 years). Pulsed arterial spin labeling was used to quantify whole brain and regional cerebral blood flow at rest. High-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV) was used to measure cardiac vagal activity at rest. The primary aim was to determine whether brain regions implicated in regulating cardiac vagal reactions were also related to cardiac vagal activity at rest, and whether these associations varied by sex or race. Brain areas previously related to vagal reactivity were related to resting HF-HRV. Directionality of relationships differed between overall and regional flows. Some relationships were only observed in women and African Americans. There appears to be communality between brain regions associated with task-induced vagal reactivity and those associated with resting cardiac vagal activity.
Project description:This research aims to investigate whether slow-paced breathing (SPB) improves adaptation to psychological stress, and specifically inhibition, when it is performed before or after physical exertion (PE). According to the resonance model, SPB is expected to increase cardiac vagal activity (CVA). Further, according to the neurovisceral integration model, CVA is positively linked to executive cognitive performance, and would thus play a role in the adaptation to psychological stress. We hypothesized that SPB, in comparison to a control condition, will induce a better adaptation to psychological stress, measured via better inhibitory performance. Two within-subject experiments were conducted with athletes: in the first experiment (N = 60) SPB (or control - neutral TV documentary) was realized before PE ("relax before PE"), and in the second experiment (N = 60) SPB (or the watching TV control) was realized after PE ("relax after PE"). PE consisted of 5 min Burpees, a physical exercise involving the whole body. In both experiments the adaptation to psychological stress was investigated with a Stroop task, a measure of inhibition, which followed PE. Perceived stress increased during PE (partial ?2 = 0.63) and during the Stroop task (partial ?2 = 0.08), and decreased during relaxation (partial ?2 = 0.15), however, no effect of condition was found. At the physiological level PE significantly increased HR, RF, and decreased CVA [operationalized in this research via the root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD)] in both experiments. Further, the number of errors in the incongruent category (Stroop interference accuracy) was found to be lower in the SPB condition in comparison to the control condition, however, these results were not mediated by RMSSD. Additionally, the Stroop interference [reaction times (RTs)] was found to be lower overall in "relax before PE," however, no effect was found regarding SPB and Stroop interference (RTs). Overall, our results suggest that SPB realized before or after PE has a positive effect regarding adaptation to psychological stress and specifically inhibition, however, the underlying mechanisms require further investigation.
Project description:Reduced heart rate variability (HRV) is associated with cardiac morbidity, mortality, and negative psychopathology. Most research concerning genetic influences on HRV has focused on adult populations, with fewer studies investigating the developmental period of adolescence and emerging adulthood. The current study estimated the genetic and environmental contributions to resting HRV in a sample of twins using various HRV time domain metrics to assess autonomic function across two different time measurement intervals (2.5- and 10-min). Five metrics of resting HRV [mean interbeat interval (IBI), the standard deviation of normal IBIs (SDNN), root square mean of successive differences between IBIs (RMSSD), cardiac vagal index (CVI), and cardiac sympathetic index (CSI)] were assessed in 421 twin pairs aged 14-20 during a baseline electrocardiogram. This was done for four successive 2.5-min intervals as well as the overall 10-min interval. Heritability (h2) appeared consistent across intervals within each metric with the following estimates (collapsed across time intervals): mean IBI (h2?=?0.36-0.46), SDNN (h2?=?0.23-0.30), RMSSD (h2?=?0.36-0.39), CVI (h2?=?0.37-0.42), CSI (h2?=?0.33-0.46). Beyond additive genetic contributions, unique environment also was an important influence on HRV. Within each metric, a multivariate Cholesky decomposition further revealed evidence of genetic stability across the four successive 2.5-min intervals. The same models showed evidence for both genetic and environmental stability with some environmental attenuation and innovation. All measures of HRV were moderately heritable across time, with further analyses revealing consistent patterns of genetic and environmental influences over time. This study confirms that in an adolescent sample, the time interval used (2.5- vs. 10-min) to measure HRV time domain metrics does not affect the relative proportions of genetic and environmental influences.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>The classic view of blood pressure (BP) reactivity to psychological stress in relation to cardiovascular risks assumes that excess reactivity is worse and lower reactivity is better. Evidence addressing how stress-induced BP reactivity in young adults is associated with midlife cognitive function is sparse.<h4>Methods and results</h4>We assessed BP reactivity during a star tracing task and a video game in adults aged 20 to 32 years. Twenty-three years later, cognitive function was assessed with use of the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (a psychomotor speed test), the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (a verbal memory test), and the modified Stroop test (an executive function test). At the time of follow-up, participants (n=3021) had a mean age of 50.2 years; 56% were women, and 44% were black. In linear regression models adjusted for demographic and clinical characteristics including baseline and follow-up resting BP, lower systolic BP (SBP) reactivity during the star tracing and video game was associated with worse Digit Symbol Substitution Test scores (? [SE]: 0.11 [0.02] and 0.05 [0.02], respectively) and worse performance on the Stroop test (? [SE]: -0.06 [0.02] and -0.05 [0.02]; all P<0.01). SBP reactivity was more consistently associated than diastolic BP reactivity with cognitive function scores. The associations between SBP reactivity and cognitive function were mostly similar between blacks and whites.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Lower psychological stress-induced SBP reactivity in younger adults was associated with lower cognitive function in midlife. BP reactivity to psychological stressors may have different associations with target organs in hypertension.
Project description:Childhood abuse is a potent risk factor for psychopathology, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research has shown high resting vagal tone, a measure of parasympathetic nervous system function, protects abused youth from developing internalizing psychopathology, but potential mechanisms explaining this effect are unknown. We explored fear extinction learning as a possible mechanism underlying the protective effect of vagal tone on PTSD symptoms among abused youth. We measured resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and skin conductance responses (SCR) during a fear conditioning and extinction task in youth with variability in abuse exposure (N?=?94; aged 6-18 years). High RSA predicted lower PTSD symptoms and enhanced extinction learning among abused youths. In a moderated-mediation model, extinction learning mediated the association of abuse with PTSD symptoms only among youth with high RSA. These findings highlight extinction learning as a possible mechanism linking high vagal tone to decreased risk for PTSD symptoms among abused youth.
Project description:The diagnosis of neuropathic postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) requires research techniques not available clinically. We hypothesized that these patients will have impaired vagal and sympathetic cardiovascular control that can be characterized with clinical autonomic tests. We included 12 POTS patients with possible neuropathic subtype because of normal plasma norepinephrine and no increase in upright blood pressure. We compared them to 10 healthy subjects. We assessed hemodynamics, heart rate and blood pressure variability, baroreflex sensitivity, raw and integrated muscle sympathetic nerve activity, and blood volume. To understand the vagal/sympathetic control, we dissected the phase 2 of Valsalva maneuver (VM) into early (VM2e) and late (VM2l). POTS' upright heart rate increased 43±3 bpm. Patients had normal plasma volume but reduced red blood cell volume (1.29 L versus predicted normal values 1.58 L; P=0.02). Vagal indices of heart rate variability, HFRRI (430±130 versus 1680±900; P=0.04), PNN50, and root mean squared of successive differences were lower in POTS. Patients showed a decrease in vagal baroreflex sensitivity (VM2e; P=0.04). In POTS, integrated muscle sympathetic nerve activity was lower at rest (12±1.5 versus 20±2 burst/min; P=0.004) and raw muscle sympathetic nerve activity spike analysis showed blunted responses during VM2e, despite a greater drop in systolic blood pressure (34±5 in POTS and 14±6 mm?Hg in controls; P=0.01). This cohort of POTS patients enriched for possible neuropathic subtype had lower resting muscle sympathetic nerve activity, impaired vagal cardiac control, and exaggerated drop in blood pressure in response to VM and a delay in the sympathetic cardiovascular responsiveness during hypotensive challenge.
Project description:<h4>Purpose</h4>To find the shortest, acceptable stabilization period before recording resting, supine ultra-short-term Ln RMSSD and heart rate (HR).<h4>Method</h4>Thirty endurance-trained male athletes (age 24.1 ± 2.3 years, maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) 64.1 ± 6.6 ml·kg-1·min-1) and 30 male students (age 23.3 ± 1.8 years, VO2max 52.8 ± 5.1 ml·kg-1·min-1) were recruited. Upon awaking at home, resting, supine RR intervals were measured continuously for 10 min using a Polar V800 HR monitor. Ultra-short-term Ln RMSSD and HR values were calculated from 1-min RR interval segments after stabilization periods from 0 to 4 min in 0.5 min increments and were compared with reference values calculated from 5-min segment after 5-min stabilization. Systematic bias and intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) including 90% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated and magnitude based inference was conducted.<h4>Results</h4>The stabilization periods of up to 30 s for athletes and up to 60 s for students showed positive (possibly to most likely) biases for ultra-short-term Ln RMSSD compared with reference values. Stabilization periods of 60 s for athletes and 90 s for students showed trivial biases and ICCs were 0.84; 90% CI 0.72 to 0.91, and 0.88; 0.79 to 0.94, respectively. For HR, biases were trivial and ICCs were 0.93; 0.88 to 0.96, and 0.93; 0.88 to 0.96, respectively.<h4>Conclusion</h4>The shortest stabilization period required to stabilize Ln RMSSD and HR was set at 60 s for endurance-trained athletes and 90 s for university students.
Project description:Objective: In two independent study arms, we determine the effects of strength training (ST) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) overload on cardiac autonomic modulation by measuring heart rate (HR) and vagal heart rate variability (HRV). Methods: In the study, 37 well-trained athletes (ST: 7 female, 12 male; HIIT: 9 female, 9 male) were subjected to orthostatic tests (HR and HRV recordings) each day during a 4-day baseline period, a 6-day overload microcycle, and a 4-day recovery period. Discipline-specific performance was assessed before and 1 and 4 days after training. Results: Following ST overload, supine HR, and vagal HRV (Ln RMSSD) were clearly increased and decreased (small effects), respectively, and the standing recordings remained unchanged. In contrast, HIIT overload resulted in decreased HR and increased Ln RMSSD in the standing position (small effects), whereas supine recordings remained unaltered. During the recovery period, these responses were reversed (ST: small effects, HIIT: trivial to small effects). The correlations between changes in HR, vagal HRV measures, and performance were weak or inconsistent. At the group and individual levels, moderate to strong negative correlations were found between HR and Ln RMSSD when analyzing changes between testing days (ST: supine and standing position, HIIT: standing position) and individual time series, respectively. Use of rolling 2-4-day averages enabled more precise estimation of mean changes with smaller confidence intervals compared to single-day values of HR or Ln RMSSD. However, the use of averaged values displayed unclear effects for evaluating associations between HR, vagal HRV measures, and performance changes, and have the potential to be detrimental for classification of individual short-term responses. Conclusion: Measures of HR and Ln RMSSD during an orthostatic test could reveal different autonomic responses following ST or HIIT which may not be discovered by supine or standing measures alone. However, these autonomic changes were not consistently related to short-term changes in performance and the use of rolling averages may alter these relationships differently on group and individual level.