Resting heart rate variability, attention and attention maintenance in young adults


Heart rate variability (HRV) is a widely used measure that reflects autonomic (parasympathetic) control of the heart. HRV has been linked with attentional performance, but it is unclear to what extent resting HRV is associated with both attention and attentional maintenance. In order to address this, we calculated HRV in seventy-four young and healthy volunteers (43 men, age: 21.6 ± 2.4), who completed the D2 Test of Attention (D2), which was used to calculate an index of Concentration Performance (CP) and a measure of attention maintenance, the coefficient of variation (CV). After accounting for the effects of sex and age on HRV, there was no significant association between HRV and CP (p = .2), but a significant relationship between HRV and CV (p = .03). Overall, our study demonstrates that attention maintenance, but not attentional performance, is associated with higher resting state HRV which suggests that attentional performance from D2 subtest-to-subtest may reflect HRV’s facilitation of behaviour flexibility.

International Journal of Psychophysiology