Cognitive rigidity is mirrored by autonomic inflexibility in daily life perseverative cognition

Cristina Ottaviani, Barbara Medea, Antonia Lonigro, Mika Tarvainen, Alessandro Couyoumdjian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mind wandering (MW) can be persistent and therefore has been included in the repetitive thinking conceptualization. In line with a dimensional view of psychopathology, we hypothesized the existence of a MW-Perseverative Cognition (PC) continuum, where the latter is characterized by a rigid and defensive pattern with attentional, behavioral, affective, and autonomic perseverative manifestations. Ambulatory heart rate (HR) and variability (HRV) of 42 participants were recorded for 24. h. Approximately every 30. min during waking, subjects reported their ongoing thoughts and moods using electronic diaries. MW was characterized by less effort to inhibit the thought and less interference with ongoing activities, absence of mood worsening, and higher HRV compared to PC. Worse sleep quality was predicted by higher levels of trait rumination and daily PC. Results suggest that MW and PC represent the functional and pathological ends of a continuum, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-30
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Ecological momentary assessment
  • Heart rate variability
  • Mind wandering
  • Perseverative cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Medicine(all)


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