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Biol Psychol. 2012 Sep;91(1):128-41. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.05.011. Epub 2012 Jun 7.

Respiratory sinus arrhythmia responses to induced emotional states: effects of RSA indices, emotion induction method, age, and sex.

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Philips Group Innovation, Research, Brain, Body & Behavior Group. High Tech Campus 34, 5656AE Eindhoven, The Netherlands.


The literature shows large inconsistencies in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) responses to induced emotional states. This may be caused by differences in emotion induction methods, RSA quantification, and non-emotional demands of the situation. In 83 healthy subjects, we studied RSA responses to pictures and film fragments eliciting six different discrete emotions relative to neutral baseline stimuli. RSA responses were quantified in the time and frequency domain and were additionally corrected for differences in mean heart rate and respiration rate, resulting in eight different RSA response measures. Subjective ratings of emotional stimuli and facial electromyographic responses indicated that pictures and film fragments elicited the intended emotions. Although RSA measures showed various emotional effects, responses were quite heterogeneous and frequently nonsignificant. They were substantially influenced by methodological factors, in particular time vs. frequency domain response measures, correction for changes in respiration rate, use of pictures vs. film fragments, and sex of participants.

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