Single and combined effects of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity on perceptual sensitivity and attention

Davydov, Dmitry M. and Shapiro, David (1999) Single and combined effects of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity on perceptual sensitivity and attention. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 37, (1), 68-90.


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Pulse rate and cephalic pulse volume were recorded from 17 male and 37 female normal subjects during performance of an attentional task under high and low stress conditions. Verbal threshold (perceptual sensitivity) and word recognition (attention) were assessed using a visual verbal recognition task. Subjects were divided at the median for pulse rate and pulse volume during baseline, instruction, and task periods and grouped in terms of these two measures to represent different patterns of parasympathetic (vagal) and sympathetic activity. Analysis of variance was used to examine the effects of gender, stress condition, and autonomic pattern on autonomic activity, perceptual sensitivity, and attentional performance. Gender showed significant effects for pulse rate with higher scores for women during the instruction and task periods. High stress reduced perceptual sensitivity and resulted in better attentional performance. Whereas stress-induced sympathetic activity was related to low perceptual sensitivity and good attentional performance, high sympathetic in conjunction with low vagal baseline activity predicted relatively high perceptual sensitivity and poor attentional performance. Low or high baseline activity in both autonomic systems predicted low perceptual sensitivity and good attentional performance. Predictions of perception and attention can be improved by examining the effects of patterns of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity.

Item Type: Article
ISSNs: 1061-0405 (print)
Related URLs:
Keywords: heart rate, cephalic pulse volume, perceptual sensitivity, word recognition, attention, verbal visual threshold, parasympathetic, vagus, sympathetic, autonomic activity, stress, performance
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Q Science > QP Physiology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Psychology > Superseded - please use new divisions
ePrint ID: 28641
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
Date Deposited: 03 May 2006
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 11:53

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