Anticipatory cardiac deceleration estimates cognitive performance in virtual reality beyond tonic heart period and heart period variability

Sazedul Alam, Gabriela S. Revi, Scott E. Kerick, Xiao Yang, Ryan Robucci, Nilanjan Banerjee, Derek P. Spangler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anticipatory cardiac deceleration is the lengthening of heart period before an expected event. It appears to reflect preparation that supports rapid action. The current study sought to bolster anticipatory deceleration as a practical and unique estimator of performance efficiency. To this end, we examined relationships between deceleration and virtual reality performance under low and high time pressure. Importantly, we investigated whether deceleration separately estimates performance beyond basal heart period and basal high-frequency heart rate variability (other vagally influenced metrics related to cognition). Thirty participants completed an immersive virtual reality (VR) cognitive performance task across six longitudinal sessions. Anticipatory deceleration and basal heart period/heart period variability were quantified from electrocardiography collected during pre-task anticipatory countdowns and baseline periods, respectively. At the between-person level, we found that greater anticipatory declaration was related to superior accuracy and faster response times (RT). The relation between deceleration and accuracy was stronger under high relative to low time pressure, when good performance requires greater efficiency. Findings for heart period and heart period variability largely converge with the prior literature, but importantly, were statistically separate from deceleration effects on performance. Lastly, deceleration effects were detected using anticipatory periods that are more practical (shorter and more intermittent) than those typically employed. Taken together, findings suggest that anticipatory deceleration is a unique and practical correlate of cognitive-motor efficiency apart from heart period and heart period variability in virtual reality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108602
JournalBiological Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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