Sensorimotor responses vary as a function of the cardiac cycle phase. These effects, known as cardiac cycle time effects, have been explained by the inhibition of cardiac afferent signals on information processing. However, the validity of cardiac cycle time effects is challenged by mixed findings. Factors such as current information processing and affective context may modulate cardiac cycle time effects and account for inconsistencies in the literature. The current study examines the influence of cardiac cycle time and threatening stimuli on two aspects of sensorimotor processing, response speed and inhibition. Thirty-four participants (Mage = 19.35 years; 29 female) completed an auditory Go/No-go task in no face, neutral face, and fearful face conditions. Faces were presented at either cardiac diastole or systole. Participants' reaction times (RTs) during Go trials and failures in response inhibition during No-go trials were recorded. The ex-Gaussian model was fit to RT data in each condition deriving the parameters, mu (μ) and tau (τ), that indicate response speed and attentional lapses, respectively. Repeated measures ANOVA were used to analyze behavioral data. Results showed that cardiac systole prolonged μ but decreased τ, and that cardiac diastole reduced inhibition errors in the fearful face condition but not in other conditions. These findings indicate that cardiac timing differentially modulates sensory-perceptual and top-down attentional processes and cardiac timing interacts with threatening contexts to influence response inhibition. These results highlight the specificity of cardiac cycle time effects on sensorimotor processing.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Physiology (medical)