The polyvagal perspective

Biol Psychol. 2007 Feb;74(2):116-43. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2006.06.009. Epub 2006 Oct 16.


The polyvagal theory introduced a new perspective relating autonomic function to behavior, that included an appreciation of the autonomic nervous system as a "system," the identification of neural circuits involved in the regulation of autonomic state, and an interpretation of autonomic reactivity as adaptive within the context of the phylogeny of the vertebrate autonomic nervous system. The paper has two objectives: first, to provide an explicit statement of the theory; and second, to introduce the features of a polyvagal perspective. The polyvagal perspective emphasizes how an understanding of neurophysiological mechanisms and phylogenetic shifts in neural regulation leads to different questions, paradigms, explanations, and conclusions regarding autonomic function in biobehavioral processes than peripheral models. Foremost, the polyvagal perspective emphasizes the importance of phylogenetic changes in the neural structures regulating the autonomic nervous system and how these phylogenetic shifts provide insights into the adaptive function and the neural regulation of the two vagal systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Arrhythmia, Sinus / physiopathology
  • Arrhythmia, Sinus / psychology
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Environment
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Pressoreceptors / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology*