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Cogn Process. 2018 Nov;19(4):557-561. doi: 10.1007/s10339-018-0865-6. Epub 2018 May 23.

Learning by heart-the relationship between resting vagal tone and metacognitive judgments: a pilot study.

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Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, University of Cologne, Pohligstraße 1, 50969, Cologne, Germany.
Faculty of Health and Welfare Sciences, Østfold University College, Halden, Norway.
Division of Surgery and Clinical Neuroscience, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
Institute of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, University Hospital of RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany.
Department of Clinical Psychology, Institute of Psychology, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany.


Metacognitive awareness and resting vagally mediated heart rate variability (HRV) as a physiological trait marker of cognitive inhibitory control capacities are both associated with better well-being and seem to share a common neural basis. Executive functioning which is considered a prerequisite for delivering prospective metacognitive judgments has been found to be correlated with HRV. This pilot study addresses the question, whether metacognitive awareness and resting vagally mediated HRV are positively associated. A sample of 20 healthy participants was analyzed that completed a typical Judgment of Learning task after an electrocardiogram had been recorded. The root-mean-squares of successive differences were used to calculate vagally mediated HRV. Metacognitive awareness was measured by comparing the judgments of learning with the actual memory performance, yielding a deviation score. HRV was found to be positively correlated with metacognitive awareness. Results suggest that metacognitive abilities might relate to physiological trait markers of cognitive inhibitory control capacities. Further experimental studies are needed to investigate causal relations.


Awareness; Memory; Metacognition; Vagal tone

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