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What the heart forgets: Cardiac timing influences memory for words and is modulated by metacognition and interoceptive sensitivity

Authors

  • Sarah N. Garfinkel,

    Corresponding author
    1. Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK
    • Department of Psychiatry, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK
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  • Adam B. Barrett,

    1. Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK
    2. Department of Informatics, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK
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  • Ludovico Minati,

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK
    2. U.O. Direzione Scientifica, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta, Milano, Italy
    3. Department of Neurology, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK
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  • Raymond J. Dolan,

    1. Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London, UK
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  • Anil K. Seth,

    1. Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK
    2. Department of Informatics, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK
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  • Hugo D. Critchley

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK
    2. Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK
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  • This work was supported by a donation from the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation. AKS is also supported by EU Project CEEDS FP7-ICT-2009-05, 258749, and an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Leadership Fellowship EP/G007543/1, which also supports the work of ABB. Many thanks to Dr. Ayana Gibbs who provided advice on EAB design and Ewan Leith who assisted with stimulus selection.

Address correspondence to: Sarah N. Garfinkel, Clinical Imaging Science Centre, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, Falmer BN1 9RR, UK. E-mail: s.garfinkel@bsms.ac.uk

Abstract

Mental functions are influenced by states of physiological arousal. Afferent neural activity from arterial baroreceptors at systole conveys the strength and timing of individual heartbeats to the brain. We presented words under limited attentional resources time-locked to different phases of the cardiac cycle, to test a hypothesis that natural baroreceptor stimulation influences detection and subsequent memory of words. We show memory for words presented around systole was decreased relative to words at diastole. The deleterious memory effect of systole was greater for words detected with low confidence and amplified in individuals with low interoceptive sensitivity, as indexed using a heartbeat counting task. Our observations highlight an important cardiovascular channel through which autonomic arousal impacts a cognitive function, an effect mitigated by metacognition (perceptual confidence) and interoceptive sensitivity.

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