Resiliency and Autonomic Control of Cardiac Responses to Stress

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Virginia Tech


Ego-resiliency (ER) is a trait that describes the ability to cope with stress, while effortful control (EC) is an individual difference related to the ability to optimally inhibit negative emotion through attentional mechanisms. ER has been linked to flexible cardiovascular responding without accounting for autonomic nervous system origins of physiological responses. Similarly, EC tends to be associated with increased cardiac vagal control. However, differences in the autonomic characteristics of these constructs remain unclear. In the current study, it was hypothesized that compared to low-scorers, individuals who score high on ER and EC will each have greater vagal control and less sympathetic control over interbeat intervals (IBI) changes during laboratory stressors. Subjects engaged in a mental arithmetic, speech preparation, and verbal fluency task to elicit cardiovascular activation along a continuum of threat. Electrocardiography and impedance cardiography were collected before, during, and after these tasks to assess changes in autonomic functioning. Results from multiple regression analyses indicated that high levels of EC predicted increased vagal control over IBI recovery and less sympathetic reactivity of IBI reactivity. Contrary to predictions, ER showed an opposite pattern of autonomic regulation across stressors.



emotion regulation, autonomic nervous system, personality