Individual differences in the autonomic origins of heart rate reactivity: the psychometrics of respiratory sinus arrhythmia and preejection period

Psychophysiology. 1994 Jul;31(4):412-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.1994.tb02449.x.


Heart rate reactivity has been conceptualized, at least implicitly, as a unidimensional construct ranging from low to high, reflecting individual differences in adrenergic reactivity to daily stressors. However, an individual's classification as high in heart rate reactivity ignores possible individual differences in the autonomic origins of this reactivity. Sixty-eight women were exposed to orthostatic and speech stressors to determine the psychometric properties (postural stability, convergent and discriminant validity) of heart rate, preejection period, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Results revealed that (a) basal, stress, simple reactivity (stress - baseline), and residualized change indices of heart rate, preejection period, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia were stable across postures and (b) heart rate reactivity was significantly related to preejection period and respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity, whereas the latter two measures were unrelated. Reactivity classifications may therefore be significantly improved by attention to concurrent estimates of the activity of both autonomic branches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arrhythmia, Sinus / physiopathology*
  • Cardiography, Impedance
  • Female
  • Heart / innervation*
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Posture / physiology
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology*