Cardiac awareness and autonomic cardiac reactivity during emotional picture viewing and mental stress

Authors

  • Beate M. Herbert,

    1. Department of Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience, Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany
    2. Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Tuebingen, Eberhard-Karls-University Tuebingen, Germany
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  • Olga Pollatos,

    1. Department of Psychology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Munich, Germany
    2. Department of Neurology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Munich, Germany
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  • Herta Flor,

    1. Department of Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience, Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany
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  • Paul Enck,

    1. Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Tuebingen, Eberhard-Karls-University Tuebingen, Germany
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  • Rainer Schandry

    1. Department of Psychology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Munich, Germany
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Address reprint requests to: Dr. Beate M. Herbert, Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Tuebingen, Eberhard-Karls-University Tuebingen, Germany. E-mail: beate.herbert@gmx.de

Abstract

This study investigated the relationship between autonomic cardiovascular reactivity and cardiac awareness during the following conditions: baseline, emotional picture viewing, mental stress, and heartbeat tracking. Cardiac parameters were examined by using power spectrum analysis of heart rate variability and impedance cardiography. According to their performance in a heartbeat tracking task, 38 participants were classified as good (n=19) or poor (n=19) heartbeat perceivers. Neither group differed during baseline and heartbeat tracking, but good compared to poor heartbeat perceivers demonstrated greater sympathetic reactivity during mental stress and more vagal reactivity and subjective arousal during emotional picture viewing. The results suggest that cardiac awareness is related to greater responsivity of the autonomic nervous system during situations evoking autonomic reactivity.

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