The neurovisceral integration model (Thayer and Lane, 2000) posits that cardiac vagal tone, indexed by heart rate variability (HRV), can indicate the functional integrity of the neural networks implicated in emotion-cognition interactions. Our recent findings begin to disentangle how HRV is associated with both top-down and bottom-up cognitive processing of emotional stimuli. Higher resting HRV is associated with more adaptive and functional top-down and bottom-up cognitive modulation of emotional stimuli, which may facilitate effective emotion regulation. Conversely, lower resting HRV is associated with hyper-vigilant and maladaptive cognitive responses to emotional stimuli, which may impede emotion regulation. In the present paper, we recapitulate the neurovisceral integration model and review recent findings that shed light on the relationship between HRV and top-down and bottom-up visual perception and attention to emotional stimuli, which may play an important role in emotion regulation. Further implications of HRV on individual well-being and mental health are discussed.
Keywords: attention; cardiac vagal tone; emotion regulation; perception; spatial frequency.