Resting Heart Rate Variability Predicts Inhibitory Control above and beyond Impulsivity

Cristina Ottaviani, Pietro Zingaretti, Anna Maria Petta, Gabriella Antonucci, Julian F. Thayer, Grazia Fernanda Spitoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Heart rate variability (HRV) has been linked to effective functioning of prefrontal-subcortical inhibitory circuits. Despite the recognized role of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in executive functions linked to inhibitory capacity, studies linking HRV to executive functions are inconsistent, likely due to potential confounders. The present study sought to examine this relation in a sample of 50 healthy participants (31 females; Mage = 24.2 years) who underwent assessment of resting HRV and two executive tasks assessing inhibitory control, namely the Rule Shift Cards and the Hayling Sentence Completion Test. Hierarchical multiple regressions showed that HRV predicted performance on both tasks (i.e., time taken to inhibit a strongly activated response) above and beyond the role of sex, body mass index, and impulsivity. Present results disconfirm that the HRV-executive function association is only due to confounders, and corroborate such relationship with the use of two ecological tasks assessing inhibitory control. Current findings support the Neurovisceral Integration Model and provide plausible explanation for previous inconsistent results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-206
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychophysiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • executive functions
  • heart rate variability
  • impulsivity
  • inhibitory control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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