Lateralized Induction of Cardiovascular Responses: Exploring Asymmetric Autonomic Regulation

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


There is clear evidence that the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is lateralized at both the peripheral as well as the central levels of the nervous system. Both the vagus and the sympathetic ganglia asymmetrically innervate the sino-atrial node and the myocardium of the heart. This lateralization has also been observed in afferent as well as efferent projections to nuclei in the brainstem, hypothalamus, and amygdala. Where laterality has not been as clear is in regions of the frontal lobe dedicated to the regulation of autonomic nervous system responses. This study addressed that issue via the implementation of lateralized autonomic response-evoking tasks. With the use of cardiovascular and electrodermal measures, the present study indexed autonomic responses to lateralized stimuli. This study also explored the role of lateralization within sex as well as in relation to reported gender identity. The findings lend support to the right hemisphere as serving a dominant role in regulating sympathetic nervous system activity, while lending less conclusive support for lateralization of parasympathetic nervous system regulation. Men demonstrated greater lateralization for sympathetic nervous system responses across several different metrics of autonomic indices. The exploration of gender variables in relation to lateralization of autonomic responses was generally not supported.



Cardiovascular Responses, Autonomic Regulation, Laterality, Gender