The relationships between vagally mediated heart rate variability (vmHRV) and the cognitive mechanisms underlying performance can be elucidated with ex-Gaussian modeling—an approach that quantifies two different forms of intra-individual variability (IIV) in reaction time (RT). To this end, the current study examined relations of resting vmHRV to whole-distribution and ex-Gaussian IIV. Subjects (N = 83) completed a 5-minute baseline while vmHRV (root mean square of successive differences; RMSSD) was measured. Ex-Gaussian (sigma, tau) and whole-distribution (standard deviation) estimates of IIV were derived from reaction times on a Stroop task. Resting vmHRV was found to be inversely related to tau (exponential IIV) but not to sigma (Gaussian IIV) or the whole-distribution standard deviation of RTs. Findings suggest that individuals with high vmHRV can better prevent attentional lapses but not difficulties with motor control. These findings inform the differential relationships of cardiac vagal control to the cognitive processes underlying human performance.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Physiology (medical)