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Sleep state and vagal regulation of heart period patterns in the human newborn: An extension of the polyvagal theory

  • STEPHEN W. PORGES (a1), JANE A. DOUSSARD-ROOSEVELT (a1), CYNTHIA A. STIFTER (a2), BONITA D. McCLENNY (a1) and TODD C. RINIOLO (a1)...

Abstract

The influence of sleep state (i.e., active and quiet) on heart period, heart period variability, respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and the coupling between RSA and heart period was evaluated in 24 healthy full-term newborns. Electrocardiogram (ECG) data were collected, and sleep state was coded 1 hr after feeding until at least 10 min of data were collected in states of active and quiet sleep. ECG data were analyzed for the first five continuous minutes of each sleep state. Relative to active sleep, quiet sleep was associated with significantly higher amplitude RSA, lower heart period variability, and longer heart periods. Because RSA amplitude reflects the functional output of vagal pathways originating in the nucleus ambiguus, it was hypothesized that sleep state would influence how these vagal pathways regulate instantaneous changes in heart period. A new method, evaluating the instantaneous coupling of RSA and heart period, demonstrated that coupling was significantly greater during active sleep. The neurophysiological explanation extends the polyvagal theory to include potential cortical–brain stem connections.

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Corresponding author

Address reprint requests to: Dr. Stephen Porges, Institute for Child Study, University of Maryland, 3304 Benjamin Building, College Park, MD 20742. E-mail: sp37@umail.umd.edu.
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Psychophysiology
  • ISSN: 0048-5772
  • EISSN: 1469-8986
  • URL: /core/journals/psychophysiology
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