Hemodynamic Profiles of Functional and Dysfunctional Forms of Repetitive Thinking

Cristina Ottaviani, Jos F. Brosschot, Antonia Lonigro, Barbara Medea, Ilse van Diest, Julian F. Thayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The ability of the human brain to escape the here and now (mind wandering) can take functional (problem solving) and dysfunctional (perseverative cognition) routes. Although it has been proposed that only the latter may act as a mediator of the relationship between stress and cardiovascular disease, both functional and dysfunctional forms of repetitive thinking have been associated with blood pressure (BP) reactivity of the same magnitude. However, a similar BP reactivity may be caused by different physiological determinants, which may differ in their risk for cardiovascular pathology. Purpose: To examine the way (hemodynamic profile) and the extent (compensation deficit) to which total peripheral resistance and cardiac output compensate for each other in determining BP reactivity during functional and dysfunctional types of repetitive thinking. Methods: Fifty-six healthy participants randomly underwent a perseverative cognition, a mind wandering, and a problem solving induction, each followed by a 5-min recovery period while their cardiovascular parameters were continuously monitored. Results: Perseverative cognition and problem solving (but not mind wandering) elicited BP increases of similar magnitude. However, perseverative cognition was characterized by a more vascular (versus myocardial) profile compared to mind wandering and problem solving. As a consequence, BP recovery was impaired after perseverative cognition compared to the other two conditions. Conclusions: Given that high vascular resistance and delayed recovery are the hallmarks of hypertension the results suggest a potential mechanism through which perseverative cognition may act as a mediator in the relationship between stress and risk for developing precursors to cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Oct 28 2016


  • Cardiac output
  • Hemodynamic profile
  • Mind wandering
  • Perseverative cognition
  • Problem solving
  • Total peripheral resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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