Heart rate variability response to alcohol, placebo, and emotional picture cue challenges: effects of 0.1-Hz stimulation

Psychophysiology. 2008 Sep;45(5):847-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2008.00673.x. Epub 2008 May 30.


Heart rate variability (HRV) supports emotion regulation and is reduced by alcohol. Based on the resonance properties of the cardiovascular system, a new 0.1-Hz methodology was developed to present emotional stimuli and assess HRV reaction in participants (N=36) randomly assigned to an alcohol, placebo, or control condition. Blocked picture cues (negative, positive, neutral) were presented at a rate of 5 s on, 5 s off (i.e., 0.1-Hz frequency). SDNN, pNN50, and HF HRV were reduced by alcohol, compared to the placebo and control. The 0.1-Hz HRV index was diminished by alcohol and placebo, suggesting that autonomic regulation can be affected by cognitive expectancy. The 0.1-Hz HRV index and pNN50 detected changes in arousal during emotional compared to neutral cues, and the 0.1-Hz HRV index was most sensitive to negative valence. The 0.1-Hz HRV methodology may be useful for studying the intersection of cognition, emotion, and autonomic regulation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cues*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrocardiography / drug effects
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol