Complexity of Everyday Life Heart Rate Dynamics and Attentional Control in Healthy Students

Xavier Bornas,Jordi Llabres, Alfonso Morillas-Romero, Blanca Aguayo-Siquier, Maria Balle, Miquel Tortella-Feliu
Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology and Life Sciences, 3, 2013

Abstract: Effective regulation of emotions requires the ability to voluntarily manage attention, i.e. attentional control (AC), which has been related to heart rate variability and vagal tone in laboratory based research. In this study, we calculated the correlation dimension (CD), the fractal-like properties (scaling exponents ?1 and ?2, and fractal dimension) and the sample entropy of heart rate time series obtained from ECG recordings (4 hours long each) taken from a sample of healthy students (n=47) during everyday activities. AC was assessed through a self-reported questionnaire. As expected, a linear positive correlation was found between AC scores and CD and entropy, but no associations were found between AC and ?1 and fractal dimension. The association between AC and ?2 was negative and marginally significant. No associations were found between AC and linear heart rate variability measures. These results show that nonlinear measures of long, everyday life, heart rate time series may provide useful information about the AC ability of healthy students.

Keywords: attentional control, heart rate, electrocardiography, complexity


Vagally mediated heart rate variability and heart rate entropy as predictors of treatment outcome in flight phobia

Xavier Bornas, Jordi Llabres, Miquel Tortella-Feliu, Miquel A. Fullana, Pedro Montoya, Ana Lopez, Miquel Noguera, Joan M. Gelabert, Vagally mediated heart rate variability and heart rate entropy as predictors of treatment outcome in flight phobia, Biological Psychology, Volume 76, Issue 3, October 2007, Pages 188-195, ISSN 0301-0511, DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2007.07.007.

In the present study a computer-assisted exposure-based treatment was applied to 54 flight phobics and the predictive role of vagally mediated heart rate (HR) variability (high frequency, 0.15-0.4 Hz band power) and heart rate entropy (HR time series sample entropy) on treatment outcome was investigated. Both physiological measures were taken under controlled breathing at 0.2 Hz and during exposure to a fearful sequence of audiovisual stimuli. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to assess the predictive power of these variables in these conditions on treatment self-report measures at the end of treatment and at 6 months follow-up, as well as on the behavioral treatment outcome (i.e. flying at the end of treatment). Regression models predicting significant amounts of outcome variance could be built only when HR entropy was added to the HR variability measure in a second step of the regression analyses. HR variability alone was not found to be a good predictor of neither self-reported nor behavioral treatment outcomes.

Fear induced complexity loss in the electrocardiogram of flight phobics: A multiscale entropy analysis

Xavier Bornas, Jordi Llabres, Miquel Noguera, Ana M Lopez, Joan Miquel Gelabert, Irene Vila, Fear induced complexity loss in the electrocardiogram of flight phobics: A multiscale entropy analysis, Biological Psychology, Volume 73, Issue 3, October 2006, Pages 272-279, ISSN 0301-0511, DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2006.05.004.

In this study we explored the changes in the variability and complexity of the electrocardiogram (ECG) of flight phobics (N = 61) and a matched non-phobic control group (N = 58) when they performed a paced breathing task and were exposed to flight related stimuli. Lower complexity/entropy values were expected in phobics as compared to controls. The phobic system complexity as well as the heart rate variability (HRV) were expected to be reduced by the exposure to fearful stimuli. The multiscale entropy (MSE) analysis revealed lower entropy values in phobics during paced breathing and exposure, and a complexity loss was observed in phobics during exposure to threatening situations. The expected HRV decreases were not found in this study. The discussion is focused on the distinction between variability and complexity measures of the cardiac output, and on the usefulness of the MSE analysis in the field of anxiety disorders.