Exploring the relationship between vagal tone and event-related potentials in response to an affective picture task

Soc Neurosci. 2011;6(1):48-62. doi: 10.1080/17470911003691402. Epub 2010 Apr 23.


The present study is the first to investigate the relationship between vagal tone level and event-related potentials (ERPs) in adults. Numerous studies have shown a relationship between vagal tone and the individual differences between a variety of psychophysiological, affective, and social outcomes. This suggests that vagal tone can be related to how people process relevant affective social information at the brain level. This study aimed to assess whether the ERP response varies between high and low vagal tone groups, in the face of salient affective information. In the experimental cohort, two groups were separated according to their vagal tone level. ERPs were recorded while individuals performed an affective picture task that included positive, neutral, and negative emotional stimuli. Differences between the high and low vagal tone groups were observed at the early posterior negativity for both positive and negative valences, and at the late positive potential for all the categories. It can be concluded that differences between high and low vagal tone levels are related to differences in the ERPs at early, middle, and late latencies. The results are discussed with respect to the effect of differences between the vagal tone conditions on various stages of information-processing.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electroencephalography
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Respiration*
  • Young Adult