• Vigilance;
  • Autonomic measures;
  • Cardiac responses;
  • Congenital heart defects;
  • Attention deficit disorder;
  • Cognitive function


Cardiac responses to non-signal stimuli and to signal stimuli in a vigilance task were examined in children born with congenital heart defects (CHD), and in normal and attention deficit disordered (ADD) subjects. Overall task performance was lower in subjects with heart defects and in the ADD group. Cardiac measures revealed that normal children displayed significantly larger heart rate deceleration to the target stimuli than did either of the clinical groups. Moreover, although no group differences were observed in the cardiac response to non-signal auditory stimuli, exaggerated heart rate deceleration was observed to vibrotactile stimuli in both the clinical groups. Regression analyses revealed that the magnitude of the cardiac response to somatosensory stimuli was predictive of task performance (both within and between subject groups), with larger responses associated with higher error rates and lower perceptual sensitivity. Results were suggestive of a predictive relationship between somatosensory reactivity and neuropsychological maturation.