Diminished vagally mediated heart rate variability in a compassion-eliciting task in intimate partner violence offenders

Recent research has identified different psychobiological mechanisms underlying Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). However, vagally mediated heart rate variability (vmHRV), a measure of parasympathetic activity, has been scarcely studied in IPV perpetrators. Low vmHRV activity has been found to be associated with maladaptive emotion regulation strategies and negative affect, whereas high vmHRV functioning has been related to higher social engagement, positive affect, prosocial behavior and compassion.
The present study examined vmHRV, mood state and prosocial behavior in a Compassion-eliciting Task, through a virtual reality paradigm, in 39 IPV offenders, compared to 42 general offenders (GO) and 43 non-forensic control participants. Additionally, it explored whether phasic vmHRV could explain the mood change in response to the Compassion Task.
IPV offenders showed lower vmHRV activity during the task when compared to non-forensic participants. No significant differences were obtained between IPV and GO. Furthermore, higher vmHRV partially explained lower negative affect after the Compassion Task for the entire sample.
Findings suggest that IPV offenders experience difficulties connecting with others’ suffering. It also highlights that the use of biomarkers, such as vmHRV, in the study of criminogenic factors may provide a broader understanding that could promote more effective interventions.

Linking heart rate variability to psychological health and brain structure in adolescents with and without conduct disorder

AimsHeart rate variability (HRV) measures have been suggested in healthy individuals as a potential index of self-regulation skills, which include both cognitive and emotion regulation aspects. Studies in patients with a range of psychiatric disorders have however mostly focused on the potential association between abnormally low HRV at rest and specifically emotion regulation difficulties. Emotion regulation deficits have been reported in patients with Conduct Disorder (CD) however, the association between these emotion regulation deficits and HRV measures has yet to be fully understood. This study investigates (i) the specificity of the association between HRV and emotion regulation skills in adolescents with and without CD and (ii) the association between HRV and grey matter brain volumes in key areas of the central autonomic network which are involved in self-regulation processes, such as insula, lateral/medial prefrontal cortices or amygdala.MethodsRespiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) measures of HRV were collected from adolescents aged between 9–18 years (693 CD (427F)/753 typically developing youth (TD) (500F)), as part of a European multi-site project (FemNAT-CD). The Inverse Efficiency Score, a speed-accuracy trade-off measure, was calculated to assess emotion and cognitive regulation abilities during an Emotional Go/NoGo task. The association between RSA and task performance was tested using multilevel regression models. T1-weighted structural MRI data were included for a subset of 577 participants (257 CD (125F); 320 TD (186F)). The CerebroMatic toolbox was used to create customised Tissue Probability Maps and DARTEL templates, and CAT12 to segment brain images, followed by a 2 × 2 (sex × group) full factorial ANOVA with RSA as regressor of interest.ResultsThere were no significant associations between RSA and task performance, neither during emotion regulation nor during cognitive regulation trials. RSA was however positively correlated with regional grey matter volume in the left insula (pFWE = 0.011) across all subjects.ConclusionRSA was related to increased grey matter volume in the left insula across all subjects. Our results thus suggest that low RSA at rest might be a contributing or predisposing factor for potential self-regulation difficulties. Given the insula’s role in both emotional and cognitive regulation processes, these brain structural differences might impact either of those.

Handling Demanding Situations: Associations between Teachers’ Interpersonal Behavior, Physiological Responses, and Emotions

Maternal depressive symptoms and affective responses to infant crying and laughing

Depressive symptoms are common in the postpartum period and can affect mother–infant interaction. To better understand the role of depressive symptoms in the mother–infant interchange, this study examined whether maternal depressive symptoms are associated with self-reported, physiological, and facial expressive responses to infant crying and laughing sounds. A nonclinical sample was used, consisting of 101 mothers (Age M = 30.88 years, 33% scored 7 or higher on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) with a young child. Mothers were exposed to standard infant crying and laughing sounds. Affect, perception of crying and laughing, intended caregiving responses, skin conductance level reactivity, and facial expressive responses to infant crying and laughing were measured. Higher levels of depressive symptoms were associated with more self-reported negative affect in general and a more negative perception of infant crying. Depressive symptoms were not associated with intended caregiving responses and physiological responses to infant crying. Infant laughing increased self-reported positive affect and happy facial expressions in mothers with all levels of depressive symptoms. Higher levels of depressive symptoms were associated with higher sad facial expressivity in general. Depressive symptoms were not related to positive perception of infant laughing, intended caregiving responses, and physiological responses to infant laughing. The findings suggest that mothers who score high on depressive symptoms send subtle facial cues showing sadness, which may overshadow happy facial expressions during infant laughing and may affect mother–infant interaction. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)

Growth mindset and school burnout symptoms in young adolescents: the role of vagal activity as potential mediator

Experiencing school burnout symptoms can have negative consequences for learning. A growth mindset, the belief that human qualities such as intelligence are malleable, has previously been correlated with fewer school burnout symptoms in late adolescents. This might be because adolescents with a stronger growth mindset show more adaptive self-regulation strategies and thereby increasing resilience against academic setbacks. Here we confirmed in a sample of 426 Dutch young adolescents (11–14 years old; 48% female) that this relationship between growth mindset and school burnout symptoms holds after controlling for other potential predictors of school burnout symptoms such as academic achievement, school track, gender, and socio-economic status. Our second aim was to increase our understanding of the mechanism underlying the relation between mindset and school burnout, by measuring physiological resilience (vagal activity, a measure of parasympathetic activity, also known as heart rate variability or HRV) in a subsample (n = 50). We did not find any relation between vagal activity and growth mindset or school burnout symptoms, nor could we establish a mediating effect of vagal activity in their relation. In conclusion, we found evidence for a potential protective effect of a growth mindset on school burnout symptoms in young adolescents, but not for physiological resilience (vagal activity) as an underlying mechanism. The protective effect of growth mindset as confirmed in our younger sample can be leveraged in interventions to prevent increasing school burnout symptoms.

From threat to challenge—Improving medical students’ stress response and communication skills performance through the combination of stress arousal reappraisal and preparatory worked example-based learning when breaking bad news to simulated patients: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Breaking bad news (BBN; e.g., delivering a cancer diagnosis) is perceived as one of the most demanding communication tasks in the medical field and associated with high levels of stress. Physicians’ increased stress in BBN encounters can negatively impact their communication performance, and in the long term, patient-related health outcomes. Although a growing body of literature acknowledges the stressful nature of BBN, little has been done to address this issue. Therefore, there is a need for appropriate tools to help physicians cope with their stress response, so that they can perform BBN at their best. In the present study, we implement the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat as theoretical framework. According to this model, the balance between perceived situational demands and perceived coping resources determines whether a stressful performance situation, such as BBN, is experienced as challenge (resources > demands) or threat (resources < demands). Using two interventions, we aim to support medical students in shifting towards challenge-oriented stress responses and improved communication performance: (1) stress arousal reappraisal (SAR), which guides individuals to reinterpret their stress arousal as an adaptive and beneficial response for task performance; (2) worked examples (WE), which demonstrate how to BBN in a step-by-step manner, offering structure and promoting skill acquisition.

Frustration, Cognition, and Psychophysiology in Dysregulated Children: A Research Domain Criteria Approach

Dysregulated children experience significant impairment in regulating their affect, behavior, and cognitions and are at risk for numerous adverse sequelae. The unclear phenomenology of their symptoms presents a barrier to evidence-based diagnosis and treatment.
The cognitive, behavioral, and psychophysiological mechanisms of dysregulation were examined in a mixed clinical and community sample of 294 children ages 7-17 using the Research Domain Criteria constructs of cognitive control and frustrative nonreward.
Results showed that caregivers of dysregulated children viewed them as having many more problems with everyday executive function than children with moderate or low levels of psychiatric symptoms; however, during standardized assessments of more complex cognitive control tasks, performance of dysregulated children differed only from children with low symptoms on tests of cognitive flexibility. In addition, when frustrated, dysregulated children performed more poorly on the Go/No-Go Task and demonstrated less autonomic flexibility as indexed by low respiratory sinus arrhythmia and pre-ejection period scores.
The findings of this study suggest that autonomic inflexibility and impaired cognitive function in the context of frustration may be mechanisms underlying childhood dysregulation.

The physiology of maternal sensitivity to distress: An exploratory study of mothers’ electrocortical and sympathetic nervous system reactivity

Maternal sensitivity in response to infant distress is related to a number of physiological processes, including electrocortical activity and activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Several studies have examined these systems in isolation, but limited work to date has investigated how they may moderate one another in relation to maternal behavior. The current exploratory study aimed to investigate the interactive effect of the late positive potential (LPP) and skin conductance level (SCL) on observed maternal sensitivity to distress. Ninety-five mothers of 6- to 12-month-old infants participated in two reactivity tasks measuring their LPP and SCL responses to child crying stimuli. Maternal sensitivity to distress was coded from video-recorded mother–infant interactions. Results showed a significant interaction effect, such that LPP reactivity to infant crying was positively related to maternal sensitivity to distress among mothers with relatively low SCL reactivity. The findings highlight the importance of examining multiple systems when characterizing the physiological basis of maternal behavior.

Cardiac autonomic nervous activity in patients with transposition of the great arteries after arterial switch operation

A chronic imbalance of the autonomic nervous system(ANS) may contribute to long term complications in different congenital heart diseases. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the ANS plays a role in the long-term outcome of patients with Transposition of great arteries(TGA) after arterial switch operation(ASO) as its contribution is as yet not clear.
The ANS activity was evaluated non-invasively in 26 TGA patients and 52 age-appropriate healthy subjects combining impedance cardiography and electrocardiography. Heart rate, pre-ejection period(sympathetic activity parameter) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia and the root of the mean square of successive normal-to-normal interval differences(parasympathetic activity parameter) were measured during 5 different daily activities(sleep, sitting, active sitting, light and moderate/vigorous physical activity). Whether the ANS activity was related to ventricular function, exercise test performance or clinical outcome in the patient group was also analyzed.
Compared to healthy subjects: heart rate was significantly lower in TGA patients at rest and during quiet and active sitting; sympathetic activity was significantly reduced in patients during physical activity; and the parasympathetic activity was higher in TGA patients while quiet and active sitting. In the patient group a significant positive correlation between 4-chamber longitudinal strain and parasympathetic activity during 3 different daily activities was found.
The sympathetic nervous system response to physical activity is reduced in TGA patients after ASO. Additionally, we observed a positive correlation between better left ventricular function and higher parasympathetic activity that could be in line with the known protective effect of a higher vagal activity.

The effects of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) on mood, attention, heart rate, skin conductance and EEG in healthy young adults

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a warm tingling sensation which is often accompanied by feelings of calmness and relaxation. The present study examined the effects of an ASMR video on mood, attention, heart rate (HR), electrodermal activity (EDA), electroencephalography (EEG) and the interaction with personality factors in 38 young adults (33 females and 5 males). Based on the ASMR-checklist responses of having tingles during watching the ASMR video 15 participants out of 38 were classified as ASMR-experiencers. Mood, attention and personality characteristics were measured by the Profile of Mood States, the Flanker task and HEXACO. EEG, HR and EDA were recorded during the ASMR and control videos. Depressive feelings decreased after watching the ASMR video in individuals experiencing tingles relative to those not experiencing tingles. Furthermore, in all participants, irrespective of experiencing tingles, a decrease of HR during watching the ASMR video was found. In ASMR-experiencers scoring low on Conscientiousness EDA tended to increase and HR tended-relatively to the group not experiencing tingles—to decrease during watching the ASMR video. EEG recordings indicated that watching the ASMR video was associated with decreased alpha power in ASMR-sensitive participants and decreased theta as well as increased beta power in the whole group of participants. The observed ASMR-induced decrease of alpha and theta power and increase of beta power and (only in low conscientious participants) EDA may reflect that, apart from relaxation, ASMR is related to arousal and focused attention.