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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2009 Feb;33(2):81-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.08.004. Epub 2008 Aug 13.

Claude Bernard and the heart-brain connection: further elaboration of a model of neurovisceral integration.

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The Ohio State University, Department of Psychology, 1835 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


The intimate connection between the brain and the heart was enunciated by Claude Bernard over 150 years ago. In our neurovisceral integration model we have tried to build on this pioneering work. In the present paper we further elaborate our model. Specifically we review recent neuroanatomical studies that implicate inhibitory GABAergic pathways from the prefrontal cortex to the amygdala and additional inhibitory pathways between the amygdala and the sympathetic and parasympathetic medullary output neurons that modulate heart rate and thus heart rate variability. We propose that the default response to uncertainty is the threat response and may be related to the well known negativity bias. We next review the evidence on the role of vagally mediated heart rate variability (HRV) in the regulation of physiological, affective, and cognitive processes. Low HRV is a risk factor for pathophysiology and psychopathology. Finally we review recent work on the genetics of HRV and suggest that low HRV may be an endophenotype for a broad range of dysfunctions.

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