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Biol Psychol. 2012 Apr;90(1):105-11. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.02.019. Epub 2012 Mar 3.

Cardiac vagal control as a prospective predictor of anxiety in women diagnosed with breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0068, USA.


Low cardiac vagal control (CVC) has been associated with state and trait anxiety and anxiety spectrum disorders. Studies indicate that diagnosis and treatments for breast cancer may be associated with anxiety. The current study examined whether CVC prospectively predicted a trajectory of change in anxiety following breast cancer diagnosis. Forty-three women diagnosed with non-metastatic breast cancer completed the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale and the Perceived Stress Scale, and a 5-min resting electrocardiographic (ECG) segment was recorded. Self-report measures were completed approximately every 3 months for a year. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) significantly predicted the trajectory of change in anxiety over the follow-up period: participants with higher baseline RSA evidenced decreasing anxiety, whereas those with lower baseline RSA had increasing anxiety. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that CVC facilitates the modulation of anxiety in women coping with significant stressors of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

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