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J Psychosom Res. 2001 May;50(5):245-53.

Similar patterns of cardiovascular response during emotional activation as a function of affective valence and arousal and gender.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop circle, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA.



Laboratory studies of emotion-induced cardiovascular responses have been conducted predominantly with a specific affects approach rather than a dimensional approach. The purpose of this study was to apply the principles of the Circumplex Model of Affect (i.e., valence and arousal) to investigate cardiovascular reactivity during emotional activation in men and women.


Forty-two healthy university students (mean age = 19.45, 52% women, 58% Caucasian) engaged in personally relevant recall tasks that varied as a function of valence and arousal. Self-reported valence and arousal, systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP and DBP, respectively), heart rate (HR), preejection period (PEP), stroke index (SI), cardiac index (CI), and total peripheral resistance (TPR) were measured during baseline and task periods.


Cardiovascular responses were found to be largely comparable across the recall tasks and were characterized by significant increases in blood pressure, HR, and TPR, and decreases in SI (Ps < .001). In addition, SBP during negative valence tasks was significantly higher than during positive valence tasks (P < .03), and PEP lengthened more during low as compared to high arousal tasks (P < .03).


These results highlight the similarity of hemodynamic adjustments during the verbal expression of emotion across gender and the dimensions of valence and arousal. The overall response pattern suggests alpha-adrenergically mediated sympathetic activation and vagal withdrawal.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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