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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2017 Dec;83:547-567. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.09.006. Epub 2017 Sep 6.

From psychological moments to mortality: A multidisciplinary synthesis on heart rate variability spanning the continuum of time.

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Department of Psychology, Swansea University, Swansea, United Kingdom; Discipline of Psychiatry, and School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia. Electronic address:
Section for Translational Psychobiology in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Centre for Psychosocial Medicine, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.
Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University,1835 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH, 43210, USA.


Heart rate variability (HRV) indexes functioning of the vagus nerve, arguably the most important nerve in the human body. The Neurovisceral Integration Model has provided a structural framework for understanding brain-body integration, highlighting the role of the vagus in adaptation to the environment. In the present paper, we emphasise a temporal framework in which HRV may be considered a missing, structural link between psychological moments and mortality, a proposal we label as Neurovisceral Integration Across a Continuum of Time (or NIACT). This new framework places neurovisceral integration on a dimension of time, highlighting implications for lifespan development and healthy aging, and helping to bridge the gap between clearly demarcated disciplines such as psychology and epidemiology. The NIACT provides a novel framework, which conceptualizes how everyday psychological moments both affect and are affected by the vagus in ways that have long-term effects on mortality risk. We further emphasize that a longitudinal approach to understanding change in vagal function over time may yield novel scientific insights and important public health outcomes.


Atherosclerosis; Autonomic nervous system; Biomarkers; Emotion; Epidemiology; Health psychology; Heart rate variability; Inflammation; Mental health; Mood; Morbidity; Mortality; Neurovisceral integration model; Physical health; Polyvagal theory; Psychiatry; Psychophysiological flexibility; Psychophysiology; Public health; Resilience

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