Event-related Brain Potentials and the Processing of Cardiac Activity

Biol Psychol. 1996 Jan 5;42(1-2):75-85. doi: 10.1016/0301-0511(95)05147-3.


The cortical processing of cardiac afferent input can be studied by means of event-related potentials (ERP), in which characteristic brain waves are seen to accompany rhythmic activity of the heart. In the present paper, results from three studies, investigating the heartbeat-evoked potential are summarized. These studies demonstrated that (a) cardio-afferent input is projected primarily to fronto-cortical areas; (b) typically, this activity is reflected as a broad positive wave form in a range of 300-600 ms after the EKG R-wave; (c) psychological factors such as level of attention and motivation exert influences on the heartbeat-evoked potential which are comparable to effects known from exteroceptive evoked potentials. On the basis of these data we infer that cardio-afferent input is for the most part transmitted along visceral fibers and that the cortical processing of cardiac activity is similar to the processing of external stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Visceral Afferents / physiology