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.

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 Lack of Systemic and Subclinical Side Effects of Botulinum Neurotoxin Type-A in Patients Affected by Post-Stroke Spasticity: A Longitudinal Cohort Study

Botulinum Neurotoxin type-A (BoNT-A) is the treatment of choice for focal post-stroke spasticity (PSS). Due to its mechanism of action and the administration method, some authors raised concern about its possible systemic diffusion leading to contralateral muscle weakness and autonomic nervous system (ANS) alterations. Stroke itself is a cause of motor disability and ANS impairment; therefore, it is mandatory to prevent any source of additional loss of strength and adjunctive ANS disturbance. We enrolled 15 hemiparetic stroke survivors affected by PSS already addressed to BoNT-A treatment. Contralateral handgrip strength and ANS parameters, such as heart rate variability, impedance cardiography values, and respiratory sinus arrythmia, were measured 24 h before (T0) and 10 days after (T1) the ultrasound (US)-guided BoNT-A injection. At T1, neither strength loss nor modification of the basal ANS patterns were found. These findings support recent literature about the safety profile of BoNT-A, endorsing the importance of the US guide for a precise targeting and the sparing of “critical” structures as vessels and nerves.

Orthostatic stress response in pediatric Fontan patients and the effect of ACE inhibition

Background Many cardiocirculatory mechanisms are involved in the adaptation to orthostatic stress. While these mechanisms may be impaired in Fontan patients. However, it is yet unclear how Fontan patients, who exhibit a critical fluid balance, respond to orthostatic stress. Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors are often prescribed to Fontan patients, but they may negatively influence orthostatic tolerance. Therefore, we evaluated the response to orthostatic stress in pediatric Fontan patients before and after treatment with enalapril. Methods Thirty-five Fontan patients (aged 14 years) with moderate-good systolic ventricular function without pre-existent enalapril treatment were included. Before and after a three-month enalapril treatment period, the hemodynamic response to head-up tilt test was evaluated by various parameters including cardiac index, blood pressure, cerebral blood flow, aortic stiffness and cardiac autonomous nervous activity. Thirty-four healthy subjects (aged 13 years) served as controls. Results Fontan patients had a decreased cerebral blood flow and increased aortic stiffness in the supine position compared to controls, while all other factors did not differ. Patients and controls showed a comparable response to head-up tilt test for most parameters. Twenty-seven patients completed the enalapril study with a mean dosage of 0.3±0.1mg/kg/day. Most parameters were unaffected by enalapril, only the percent decrease in cardiac index to tilt was higher after treatment, but the cardiac index during tilt was not lower (3.0L/min/m2 pre-enalapril versus 2.8L/min/m2 after treatment; P = 0.15). Conclusion Pediatric Fontan patients adequately respond to orthostasis with maintenance of blood pressure and cerebral blood flow and sufficient autonomic response. Enalapril treatment did not alter the response. Clinical trial information Scientific title: ACE inhibition in Fontan patients: its effect on body fluid regulation (sAFE-study). The Netherlands National Trial Register: Trail NL6415. Registered 2017-07-20. Trial information:

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.

Sympathetic Nervous System Predominance in Intimate Partner Violence Perpetrators After Coping With Acute Stress

It has been suggested that intimate partner violence (IPV) against women perpetrators present emotional dysregulations when dealing with acute stress, which in turn could help to explain their proneness to violence. Emotional regulation can be objectively measured by means of psychophysiological parameters/variables/indicators of autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity, such as cardiorespiratory (heart rate [HR], pre-ejection period [PEP] and respiratory sinus arrythmia [RSA]) and electrodermal (skin conductance levels [SCL]) signals. Therefore, this study aims to assess whether IPV perpetrators (n = 107) present differential psychophysiological and psychological state changes when coping with an acute cognitive laboratory stressor (a set of cognitive tests performed in front of an expert committee) in comparison with nonviolent men (n = 87). Moreover, the study assesses whether psychological state variables foster the psychophysiological response to acute stress. Our results demonstrate that, compared to nonviolent controls, IPV perpetrators showed higher HR and SCL values, shorter PEP, and lower RSA values during recovery from stress. They also presented higher negative affect (i.e., more anger and worse mood) after stress. Thus, high baseline anger explained the increases in emotional arousal when measured as SCL increases. The present study contributes evidence showing that IPV perpetrators and nonviolent men cope differently with stress. These findings might help forensic science to identify characteristics of violent individuals to establish their therapeutic needs. Furthermore, it would be appropriate to combine psychophysiological measurements with self-reports, thus increasing the reliability of the assessment of violent individuals.

Menopausal vasomotor symptoms and adiponectin among midlife women

Vasomotor symptoms (VMS) are prevalent symptoms that can have a negative impact on quality of life. VMS have also been linked to cardiovascular disease risk, yet the mechanisms underlying these associations have not been elucidated. Some initial works link VMS to adverse adipokine profiles or cytokines produced by adipose tissue. However, results are not entirely consistent and are based entirely on self-report VMS, which is influenced by a range of memory and reporting biases. The aim of this work was to test whether physiologically assessed VMS are associated with lower adiponectin, the most abundant adipokine in the body, controlling for confounding factors. We also consider whether adiponectin explains previously documented relationships between VMS and carotid atherosclerosis.
A total of 300 peri- and postmenopausal nonsmoking women aged 40 to 60 years enrolled in the MsHeart study comprised the analytic sample. Women were free of hormone therapy or other medications impacting VMS, insulin-dependent diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Participants underwent ambulatory physiologic VMS monitoring, physical measures, a carotid ultrasound, and fasting phlebotomy.
More frequent physiologically assessed VMS were associated with lower adiponectin (B [SE] = −0.081 [0.028], P = 0.004; or 0.081 lower μg/mL in adiponectin for each additional VMS over 24 hours), controlling for age, race/ethnicity, education, insulin resistance, and waist circumference. Associations were not explained by endogenous estradiol. Adiponectin did not explain associations between VMS and carotid atherosclerosis.
Physiologic VMS were associated with lower adiponectin after considering potential confounders. The role of adipokines in VMS and in links between VMS and health warrants further attention.

Ambulatory measurement of respiratory sinus arrhythmia and respiration rate

The present study describes a device (AMD43) for ambulatory measurement of respiration rate and respiratory sinus arrhythmia from the combined electrocardiogram (ECG) and thoracic impedance signals. Respiratory time intervals derived from this ambulatory device closely corresponded to those derived from simultaneous recordings with a ‘classical’ laboratory set-up. Good cross-instrument comparison was also found for respiratory sinus arrhythmia parameters derived with both the peak-to-trough and spectral analyses methods. It is discussed how simultaneous measurement of respiration rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia may be used to asses cardiac vagal tone in real-life situations.

The relationship between stress reactivity in the laboratory and in real-life: Is reliability the limiting factor?

Explored the effect of repeating a laboratory stressor and a real-life stress exposure on the correlation of the reactivity to both types of stressors. 49 male university students’ HRs were monitored during exposure to the same stressful lab task 3 times, with 1-wk intervals. Ss’ HRs were also monitored during 2 examinations. Despite the repeated exposures, the relationship between the average response to the repeated lab task and to the exams remained small and insignificant. The moderate association between reactivity to lab tasks and to real-life stress is not primarily a problem of reliability, but rather of the difference in the nature of the 2 stress situations. The difference in time scale may frustrate a real-life to lab comparison, and different physiological mechanisms may be operating during short and prolonged exposure to stress. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)