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The brain and the cardiovascular system influence each other during the processing of emotion. The study of the interactions of these systems during emotion regulation has been limited in human functional neuroimaging, despite its potential importance for physical health. We have previously reported that mental expertise in cultivation of compassion alters the activation of circuits linked with empathy and theory of mind in response to emotional stimuli. Guided by the finding that heart rate increases more during blocks of compassion meditation than neutral states, especially for experts, we examined the interaction between state (compassion vs. neutral) and group (novice, expert) on the relation between heart rate and BOLD signal during presentation of emotional sounds presented during each state. Our findings revealed that BOLD signal in the right middle insula showed a significant association with heart rate (HR) across state and group. This association was stronger in the left middle/posterior insula when experts were compared to novices. The positive coupling of HR and BOLD was higher within the compassion state than within the neutral state in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex for both groups, underlining the role of this region in the modulation of bodily arousal states. This state effect was stronger for experts than novices in somatosensory cortices and the right inferior parietal lobule (group by state interaction). These data confirm that compassion enhances the emotional and somatosensory brain representations of others' emotions, and that this effect is modulated by expertise. Future studies are needed to further investigate the impact of compassion training on these circuits.
Despite the call for multilevel observation of negative affect, including multiple physiological systems, too little empirical research has been conducted in infants and young children, and physiology-affect associations are not consistently reported. We examined changes in heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and preejection period in 24-month-olds across four increasingly challenging, emotion-eliciting tasks. We predicted that changes in cardiac reactivity would be systematically related to changes in negative affect. Results largely support the predictions with one important exception. With increasing distress across the tasks, HR increased and RSA decreased. However, no significant changes in PEP were observed. HR was associated with negative affect during all tasks, and changes in HR were related to changes in negative affect. PEP and negative affect were associated, but only marginally so. Within-subject analyses confirmed the predicted associations. Finally, the associations between physiology and negative affect were different for boys and girls. We discuss these results in the context of implications for future research on cardiac-affect associations in young children.
This study aims at investigating changes in heart rate variability (HRV) measured during meditation. The statistical and spectral measures of HRV from the RR intervals were analyzed. Results indicate that meditation may have different effects on health depending on frequency of the resonant peak that each meditator can achieve. The possible effects may concern resetting baroreflex sensitivity, increasing the parasympathetic tone, and improving efficiency of gas exchange in the lung.
Previous research indicates that lower-class individuals experience elevated negative emotions as compared with their upper-class counterparts. We examine how the environments of lower-class individuals can also promote greater compassionate responding-that is, concern for the suffering or well-being of others. In the present research, we investigate class-based differences in dispositional compassion and its activation in situations wherein others are suffering. Across studies, relative to their upper-class counterparts, lower-class individuals reported elevated dispositional compassion (Study 1), as well as greater self-reported compassion during a compassion-inducing video (Study 2) and for another person during a social interaction (Study 3). Lower-class individuals also exhibited heart rate deceleration-a physiological response associated with orienting to the social environment and engaging with others-during the compassion-inducing video (Study 2). We discuss a potential mechanism of class-based influences on compassion, whereby lower-class individuals' are more attuned to others' distress, relative to their upper-class counterparts.
The heart rate, breathing rate, and skin resistance were recorded for 20 community home girls (Home group) and for 20 age-matched girls from a regular school (School group). The former group had a significantly higher rate of breathing and a more irregular breath pattern known to correlate with high fear and anxiety, than the School group. Skin resistance was significantly lower in the School group, which may suggest greater arousal, 28 girls of the Home group formed 14 pairs, matched for age and duration of stay in the home. Subjects of a pair were randomly assigned to either yoga or games groups. For the former emphasis was on relaxation and awareness, whereas for the latter increasing physical activity was emphasized. At the end of an hour daily for six months both groups showed a significant decrease in the resting heart rate relative to initial values (Wilcoxon paired-sample rest), and the yoga group showed a significant decrease in breath rate, which appeared more regular but no significant increase in the skin resistance. These results suggest that a yoga program which includes relaxation, awareness, and graded physical activity is a useful addition to the routine of community home children.
The putative association between fear-related behaviors and peripheral sympathetic and neuroendocrine reactivity has not been replicated consistently. This inconsistency was addressed in a reexamination of the characterization of children with extreme fearful reactions by focusing on the match between distress behaviors and the eliciting context. Eighty 24-month-old children were observed in 4 mildly threatening contexts, and the relations among different measures of fear-related behaviors, reactive and basal cortisol levels, and baseline cardiac measures of heart rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and preejection period (PEP) were examined. The hypothesis that only behaviors under the less threatening context would be associated with higher cortisol and sympathetic cardiac activity was confirmed; only task-specific freezing behavior predicted higher reactive and basal cortisol levels and resting PEP measured 1 week later. Implications for the conceptualization of dysregulated fear behaviors in the classification of extremely fearful children are discussed.
Converging findings suggest that depressed individuals exhibit disturbances in positive emotion. No study, however, has ascertained which specific positive emotions are implicated in depression. We report two studies that compare how depressive symptoms relate to distinct positive emotions at both trait and state levels of assessment. In Study 1 (N=185), we examined associations between depressive symptoms and three trait positive emotions (pride, happy, amusement). Study 2 compared experiential and autonomic reactivity to pride, happy, and amusement film stimuli between depressive (n=24; DS) and non-depressive (n=31; NDS) symptom groups. Results indicate that symptoms of depression were most strongly associated with decreased trait pride and decreased positive emotion experience to pride-eliciting films. Discussion focuses on the implications these findings have for understanding emotion deficits in depression as well as for the general study of positive emotion.
The dynamic interactions among physiological rhythms imbedded in the heart rate signal can give valuable insights into autonomic modulation in conditions of reduced outward attention. Therefore, in this study we analyzed the heart rate variability (HRV) in different levels of practice in Zen meditation (Zazen). Nineteen subjects with variable experience took part in this study. In four special cases we collected both HRV and respiration data. The time series were analyzed in frequency domain and also using the Continuous Wavelet Transform, which detects changes in the time domain and in the frequency domain simultaneously. The shifts in the respiratory modulation of heart rate, or respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), reflect the different levels of practice among practitioners with variable experience in Zazen; in turn the modulation of the RSA may reflect changes in the breathing pattern as in the parasympathetic outflow related to the quality and focus of attention in each stage.
OBJECTIVE: In this case study, we describe the effects of a particular individual's concentration/meditation technique on autonomic nervous system activity and the innate immune response. The study participant holds several world records with regard to tolerating extreme cold and claims that he can influence his autonomic nervous system and thereby his innate immune response. METHODS: The individual's ex vivo cytokine response (stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with lipopolysaccharide [LPS]) was determined before and after an 80-minute full-body ice immersion during which the individual practiced his concentration/meditation technique. Furthermore, the individual's in vivo innate immune response was studied while practicing his concentration/mediation technique during human endotoxemia (intravenous administration of 2 ng/kg LPS). The results from the endotoxemia experiment were compared with a historical cohort of 112 individuals who participated in endotoxemia experiments in our institution. RESULTS: The ex vivo proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine response was greatly attenuated by concentration/meditation during ice immersion, accompanied by high levels of cortisol. In the endotoxemia experiment, concentration/meditation resulted in increased circulating concentrations of catecholamines, and plasma cortisol concentrations were higher than in any of the previously studied participants. The individual's in vivo cytokine response and clinical symptoms after LPS administration were remarkably low compared with previously studied participants. CONCLUSIONS: The concentration/meditation technique used by this particular individual seems to evoke a controlled stress response. This response is characterized by sympathetic nervous system activation and subsequent catecholamine/cortisol release, which seems to attenuate the innate immune response.
Attention to internal body sensations is practiced in most meditation traditions. Many traditions state that this practice results in increased awareness of internal body sensations, but scientific studies evaluating this claim are lacking. We predicted that experienced meditators would display performance superior to that of nonmeditators on heartbeat detection, a standard noninvasive measure of resting interoceptive awareness. We compared two groups of meditators (Tibetan Buddhist and Kundalini) to an age- and body mass index-matched group of nonmeditators. Contrary to our prediction, we found no evidence that meditators were superior to nonmeditators in the heartbeat detection task, across several sessions and respiratory modulation conditions. Compared to nonmeditators, however, meditators consistently rated their interoceptive performance as superior and the difficulty of the task as easier. These results provide evidence against the notion that practicing attention to internal body sensations, a core feature of meditation, enhances the ability to sense the heartbeat at rest.
Abstract Mindfulness has been incorporated into several treatment approaches for psychopathology. Despite the popularity of this approach, relatively few empirical investigations have examined the relationship between mindfulness and autonomic indicators of flexible emotion regulation, such as heart rate variability (HRV). Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has been associated with both low levels of mindfulness and HRV. In this investigation, we examined the relationship between HRV and mindfulness in the context of elevated generalized anxiety (GA) symptoms—an analog for GAD—by examining whether GA level moderated this relationship. HRV was collected while participants completed self-report measures of GA and trait mindfulness. GA level interacted with mindfulness in the prediction of HRV; in the high GA, but not low GA group, mindfulness was positively associated with HRV. This suggests that for individuals with high GA, mindfulness may enhance parasympathetic influences on the heart rate. We address the limitations of the current investigation and suggest avenues for future research on mindfulness-related changes in tonic and phasic HRV over time.
Although there is much evidence demonstrating muscle tension changes during mental work, there are few data concerning muscle tension patterns during effortful attention to simple sensory stimuli. In the present study, sensory attention was evoked by a pitch discrimination task at three levels of difficulty, with a digit retention task administered for comparison. Twenty-four females each performed both tasks at all levels of difficulty, while the EKG, and the corrugator supercilii, frontalis, lip, jaw, chin, and forearm area EMG were recorded. As expected, heart rate decreased significantly with increasing difficulty of the pitch task. A pattern of facial EMG responses accompanied the pitch task, which included significant increases in corrugator and frontalis, and decreases in the jaw as a function of difficulty, and time within trials. The tension pattern observed during sensory intake is discussed in terms of its relation to emotional expressions and motor theories of attention.
Anxiety is a debilitating symptom of many psychiatric disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, mood disorders, schizophrenia, and autism. Anxiety involves changes in both central and peripheral biology, yet extant functional imaging studies have focused exclusively on the brain. Here we show, using functional brain and cardiac imaging in sequential brain and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sessions in response to cues that predict either threat (a possible shock) or safety (no possibility of shock), that MR signal change in the amygdala and the prefrontal and insula cortices predicts cardiac contractility to the threat of shock. Participants with greater MR signal change in these regions show increased cardiac contractility to the threat versus safety condition, a measure of the sympathetic nervous system contribution to the myocardium. These findings demonstrate robust neural-cardiac coupling during induced anxiety and indicate that individuals with greater activation in brain regions identified with aversive emotion show larger magnitude cardiac contractility increases to threat.
Aversive Pavlovian conditioning is an important tool used to investigate neurobiological mechanisms underlying the acquisition and expression of fear. Most studies have used nonprimate species employing electrical shock as the unconditioned stimulus (US). Although important advances have been made in understanding the neural substrates of conditioned fear, the extent to which these findings apply to primates is unclear. Research in primates has not progressed because of the lack of a conditioning paradigm that does not use shock. Therefore, we developed a method that uses a US consisting of a loud noise coupled with a stream of compressed air aimed at the face to aversively condition heart rate response in rhesus monkeys. With this US, rhesus monkeys rapidly acquire a conditioned bradycardia. The availability of an easy, reliable, and efficient method of aversive conditioning that does not require electrical shock, will facilitate studies investigating neurobiological mechanisms underlying the acquisition and expression of fear in primates.
Resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSAREST) indexes important aspects of individual differences in emotionality. In the present investigation, the authors address whether RSAREST is associated with tonic positive or negative emotionality, and whether RSAREST relates to phasic emotional responding to discrete positive emotion-eliciting stimuli. Across an 8-month, multiassessment study of first-year university students (n = 80), individual differences in RSAREST were associated with positive but not negative tonic emotionality, assessed at the level of personality traits, long-term moods, the disposition toward optimism, and baseline reports of current emotional states. RSAREST was not related to increased positive emotion, or stimulus-specific emotion, in response to compassion-, awe-, or pride-inducing stimuli. These findings suggest that resting RSA indexes aspects of a person's tonic positive emotionality.
Background : Recent research suggests that the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program has positive effects on health, but little is known about the immediate physiological effects of different components of the program. Purpose : To examine the short-term autonomic and cardiovascular effects of one of the techniques employed in mindfulness meditation training, a basic body scan meditation. Methods : In Study 1, 32 healthy young adults (23 women, 9 men) were assigned randomly to either a meditation, progressive muscular relaxation or wait-list control group. Each participated in two laboratory sessions 4 weeks apart in which they practiced their assigned technique. In Study 2, using a within-subjects design, 30 healthy young adults (15 women, 15 men) participated in two laboratory sessions in which they practiced meditation or listened to an audiotape of a popular novel in counterbalanced order. Heart rate, cardiac respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and blood pressure were measured in both studies. Additional measures derived from impedance cardiography were obtained in Study 2. Results : In both studies, participants displayed significantly greater increases in RSA while meditating than while engaging in other relaxing activities. A significant decrease in cardiac pre-ejection period was observed while participants meditated in Study 2. This suggests that simultaneous increases in cardiac parasympathetic and sympathetic activity may explain the lack of an effect on heart rate. Female participants in Study 2 exhibited a significantly larger decrease in diastolic blood pressure during meditation than the novel, whereas men had greater increases in cardiac output during meditation compared to the novel. Conclusions : The results indicate both similarities and differences in the physiological responses to body scan meditation and other relaxing activities.
BACKGROUND Seasonal and circadian variations in the occurrence of myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death have been documented, suggesting that triggering factors may play a role in the causation of cardiac events. However, there are only sparse and conflicting data on the weekly distribution of the disorders. METHODS AND RESULTS To determine the weekly variation of acute myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death, 5596 consecutive patients (71% men; age, 63 +/- 1 years) were analyzed in a regionally defined population (n = 330,000; age, 25 to 74 years) monitored from 1985 to 1990. The exact time of onset of symptoms was used to determine the day of the event. Patients with myocardial infarction (n = 2636) demonstrated a significant weekly variation (P < .01) with a peak on Monday, whereas patients with sudden cardiac death (n = 2960) were evenly distributed throughout the week. A similar weekly pattern was observed in subgroups of patients with myocardial infarction defined with respect to age, sex, cardiac risk factors, prior cardiac medication, and infarct characteristics. The working population demonstrated a weekly variation of myocardial infarction as opposed to the nonworking population, with a 33% increase in relative risk of disease onset on Monday (P < .05) and a trough on Sunday compared with the expected number of cases, if homogeneity was assumed. CONCLUSIONS The onset of acute myocardial infarction demonstrates a peak on Monday primarily in the working population. If this finding is confirmed in other communities, it may aid in identifying acute triggering events of myocardial infarction and perhaps in improving prevention of the disease. (Copyright © 1994 by American Heart Association)
BACKGROUND: Recent studies have highlighted the role of right-sided anterior temporal and prefrontal activation during anxiety, yet no study has been performed with social phobics that assesses regional brain and autonomic function. This study compared electroencephalograms (EEGs) and autonomic activity in social phobics and controls while they anticipated making a public speech. METHODS: Electroencephalograms from 14 scalp locations, heart rate, and blood pressure were recorded while 18 DSM-IV social phobics and 10 controls anticipated making a public speech, as well as immediately after the speech was made. Self-reports of anxiety and affect were also obtained. RESULTS: Phobics showed a significantly greater increase in anxiety and negative affect during the anticipation condition compared with controls. Heart rate was elevated in the phobics relative to the controls in most conditions. Phobics showed a marked increase in right-sided activation in the anterior temporal and lateral prefrontal scalp regions. These heart rate and EEG changes together accounted for > 48% of the variance in the increase in negative affect during the anticipation phase. CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the hypothesis of right-sided anterior cortical activation during anxiety and indicate that the combination of EEG and heart rate changes during anticipation account for substantial variance in reported negative affect.