Patterns of Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Reactivity in a Sample of Children and Adolescents

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Sympathetic nervous system, Parasympathetic nervous system, Preejection period, Cardiovascular disease, Children and adolescents, Heart rate variability, Blood pressure, Impedance cardiography

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We hypothesized that patterns of sympathetic and parasympathetic reactivity observed in adults would be apparent in a sample of children and adolescents and that these patterns would be consistent across tasks. We explored the relationship between these patterns and psychosocial risk factors for cardiovascular disease. We measured preejection period (PEP) and an index of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (mean successive difference [MSD] statistic) during three reactivity tasks. We classified participants into four groups based on increases or decreases in PEP and MSD. Ninety percent of the sample exhibited the same pattern during at least two of the tasks. PEP and MSD demonstrated consistency, suggesting individual response stereotypy. Exhibiting a consistent pattern of decreased PEP and increased MSD was associated with less child- and parent-reported family conflict. These results are discussed in the context of vagal regulation of environmental demands.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Psychophysiology, v. 37, issue 6, p. 842-849.