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Interactions between autonomic cardiovascular regulation and cortical activity: A CNV study


  • We are grateful to Dr. Christof Kuhbandner, Dipl.-Psych. Philipp Spachtholz, Dr. Jörg Meinhardt, Dipl.-Psych. Stella Bollmann, and Prof. Dr. Matthias Ziegler for their help with EEG recording and data analysis.

Address correspondence to: Prof. Dr. Stefan Duschek, UMIT—University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology, Eduard-Wallnöfer-Zentrum 1, A-6060 Hall in Tirol, Austria. E-mail:


The study investigated interactions between autonomic cardiovascular regulation and cortical activity. In 54 healthy subjects, baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) were assessed at resting conditions. As an EEG indicator of cortical excitability, the contingent negative variation (CNV) was induced using a constant foreperiod reaction time task. At bivariate level, only RSA showed a moderate positive correlation with the CNV recorded at frontal electrodes. However, when common variance of BRS and RSA was controlled for in multiple regression analysis, an inverse association between BRS and the frontal CNV also arose. The inverse association between BRS and the CNV is discussed as reflecting bottom-up modulation of cortical excitability by baroreceptor afferents. The positive correlation between RSA and the CNV may relate to the interplay between prefrontal processing and cardiac vagal tone.