• Affective pictures;
  • Arousal;
  • Blood pressure;
  • Cardiovascular reactivity;
  • Emotion;
  • Heart rate;
  • Sex differences;
  • Stroke volume


In this study we assessed blood pressure (BP), heart rate (HR), stroke volume (SV), cardiac output (CO), and total peripheral resistance (TPR) in response to 13 picture series in 37 participants in order to investigate their hemodynamic response associated with activation of the appetitive and defensive motivational systems underlying emotional experience. BP and SV, but not TPR, increased with increasing self-rated arousal, whereas HR decelerated more in response to negative than positive and neutral pictures. These findings suggest that modulation of the cardiovascular response to pictures is primarily myocardial. The observed response pattern is consistent with a configuration of cardiac sympathetic–parasympathetic coactivation. The relationships between self-rated arousal, BP, and SV were mainly exhibited by men, suggesting that increases in the sympathetic inotropic effect to the heart with self-rated arousal may be larger in men than in women.