From the heart to the mind's eye: Cardiac vagal tone is related to visual perception of fearful faces at high spatial frequency

Gewnhi Park, Jay J. Van Bavel, Michael W. Vasey, Eric J L Egan, Julian F. Thayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The neurovisceral integration model (. Thayer and Lane, 2000) proposes that vagally mediated heart rate variability (HRV)-an index of cardiac vagal tone-is associated with autonomic flexibility and emotional self-regulation. Two experiments examined the relationship between vagally mediated HRV and visual perception of affectively significant stimuli at different spatial frequencies. In Experiment 1, HRV was positively correlated with superior performance discriminating the . emotion of affectively significant (i.e., fearful) faces at high spatial frequency (HSF). In Experiment 2, processing goals moderated the relationship between HRV and successful discrimination of HSF fearful faces. In contrast to Experiment 1, discriminating the . expressiveness of HSF fearful faces was not correlated with HRV. The current research suggests that HRV is positively associated with superior visual discrimination of affectively significant stimuli at high spatial frequency, and this relationship may be sensitive to the top-down influence of different processing goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-178
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2012



  • Cardiac vagal tone
  • Emotion
  • Perception
  • Spatial frequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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