Macaque cardiac physiology is sensitive to the valence of passively viewed sensory stimuli

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 5;8(8):e71170. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071170. Print 2013.


Autonomic nervous system activity is an important component of affective experience. We demonstrate in the rhesus monkey that both the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system respond differentially to the affective valence of passively viewed video stimuli. We recorded cardiac impedance and an electrocardiogram while adult macaques watched a series of 300 30-second videos that varied in their affective content. We found that sympathetic activity (as measured by cardiac pre-ejection period) increased and parasympathetic activity (as measured by respiratory sinus arrhythmia) decreased as video content changes from positive to negative. These findings parallel the relationship between autonomic nervous system responsivity and valence of stimuli in humans. Given the relationship between human cardiac physiology and affective processing, these findings suggest that macaque cardiac physiology may be an index of affect in nonverbal animals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta / psychology
  • Male
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation*
  • Video Recording