Do we need a stressor to be stressed? Insights from cardiac regulation

Cristina Ottaviani, David Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In consideration of existing contradictory findings, the aim of the present study was to overcome the limitations of traditional cardiac reactivity studies. First, we examined the cardiac activation that takes place in response to ruminating about stress, independently of the presence of a real stressor, and second, we focused on the underlying physiological components of cardiac regulation during rumination, that is, the sympathetic and parasympathetic components. In 60 participants (27 men and 33 women; mean age=33.4±9.5 years), we recorded cardiac impedance and heart rate during baseline, an Anger Recall Interview, a reading task, and two recovery periods. Rumination was experimentally manipulated by the use of a distracter. Nondistracted participants showed higher sympathetic activity as suggested by shorter pre-ejection period, higher low-frequency heart rate variability (LF-HRV), higher ratio of LF to high frequency HRV (HF-HRV), and diminished parasympathetic activity (lower HF-HRV). The results underscore the association of rumination with a series of well-known risk factors for health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-162
Number of pages8
JournalJapanese Psychological Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


  • Autonomic balance
  • Parasympathetic nervous system
  • Risk factors
  • Rumination
  • Sympathetic nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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