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Autonomic origins of a nonsignal stimulus-elicited bradycardia and its habituation in humans



The purposes of the present study were to determine the autonomic origins of a bradycardiac response to a moderate intensity nonsignal auditory stimulus and the changes in autonomic cardiac control of this response as a function of habituation. Pure tone stimuli were repeatedly presented to participants while phasic changes in heart period (HP), preejection period (PEP), and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) were observed. Tone stimuli initially elicited an increase in HP, an increase in RSA, and a decrease in PEP, suggesting a coactivation of the parasympathetic and sympathetic inputs mediating changes in the bradycardiac HP response. As expected, HP responses habituated with repeated presentations of the tones. PEP and RSA responses, however, demonstrated different habituation rates than HP. These data demonstrate that cardiodeceleratory responses to nonsignal stimuli can arise from changes in activity of both autonomic divisions and document the importance of considering the autonomic origins of habituating cardiac responses in order to fully understand the process of response habituation.


Corresponding author

Address reprint requests to: Karen S. Quigley, Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA. E-mail:
Or address reprint requests to: Peter J. Gianaros, E1329 Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O'Hara St., University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA. E-mail:
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  • ISSN: 0048-5772
  • EISSN: 1469-8986
  • URL: /core/journals/psychophysiology
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