Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia as an Index of Vagal Activity during Stress in Infants: Respiratory Influences and Their Control

Thomas Ritz, Michelle Bosquet Enlow, Stefan M. Schulz, Robert Kitts, John Staudenmayer, Rosalind J. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) is related to cardiac vagal outflow and the respiratory pattern. Prior infant studies have not systematically examined respiration rate and tidal volume influences on infant RSA or the extent to which infants' breathing is too fast to extract a valid RSA. We therefore monitored cardiac activity, respiration, and physical activity in 23 six-month old infants during a standardized laboratory stressor protocol. On average, 12.6% (range 0-58.2%) of analyzed breaths were too short for RSA extraction. Higher respiration rate was associated with lower RSA amplitude in most infants, and lower tidal volume was associated with lower RSA amplitude in some infants. RSA amplitude corrected for respiration rate and tidal volume influences showed theoretically expected strong reductions during stress, whereas performance of uncorrected RSA was less consistent. We conclude that stress-induced changes of peak-valley RSA and effects of variations in breathing patterns on RSA can be determined for a representative percentage of infant breaths. As expected, breathing substantially affects infant RSA and needs to be considered in studies of infant psychophysiology.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere52729
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume7
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - 29 Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes

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