Emotion suppression moderates the quadratic association between RSA and executive function

Derek P. Spangler, Martha Ann Bell, Kirby Deater-Deckard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


There is uncertainty about whether respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), a cardiac marker of adaptive emotion regulation, is involved in relatively low or high executive function performance. In the present study, we investigated (a) whether RSA during rest and tasks predict both relatively low and high executive function within a larger quadratic association among the two variables, and (b) the extent to which this quadratic trend was moderated by individual differences in emotion regulation. To achieve these aims, a sample of ethnically and socioeconomically diverse women self-reported reappraisal and emotion suppression. They next experienced a 2-min resting period during which electrocardiogram (ECG) was continually assessed. In the next phase, the women completed an array of executive function and nonexecutive cognitive tasks while ECG was measured throughout. As anticipated, resting RSA showed a quadratic association with executive function that was strongest for high suppression. These results suggest that relatively high resting RSA may predict poor executive function ability when emotion regulation consumes executive control resources needed for ongoing cognitive performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1175-1185
Number of pages11
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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