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      Heart Rate Variability and Cardiac Vagal Tone in Psychophysiological Research – Recommendations for Experiment Planning, Data Analysis, and Data Reporting


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          Psychophysiological research integrating heart rate variability (HRV) has increased during the last two decades, particularly given the fact that HRV is able to index cardiac vagal tone. Cardiac vagal tone, which represents the contribution of the parasympathetic nervous system to cardiac regulation, is acknowledged to be linked with many phenomena relevant for psychophysiological research, including self-regulation at the cognitive, emotional, social, and health levels. The ease of HRV collection and measurement coupled with the fact it is relatively affordable, non-invasive and pain free makes it widely accessible to many researchers. This ease of access should not obscure the difficulty of interpretation of HRV findings that can be easily misconstrued, however, this can be controlled to some extent through correct methodological processes. Standards of measurement were developed two decades ago by a Task Force within HRV research, and recent reviews updated several aspects of the Task Force paper. However, many methodological aspects related to HRV in psychophysiological research have to be considered if one aims to be able to draw sound conclusions, which makes it difficult to interpret findings and to compare results across laboratories. Those methodological issues have mainly been discussed in separate outlets, making difficult to get a grasp on them, and thus this paper aims to address this issue. It will help to provide psychophysiological researchers with recommendations and practical advice concerning experimental designs, data analysis, and data reporting. This will ensure that researchers starting a project with HRV and cardiac vagal tone are well informed regarding methodological considerations in order for their findings to contribute to knowledge advancement in their field.

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                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                20 February 2017
                : 8
                : 213
                [1] 1Institute of Psychology, Department of Performance Psychology, German Sport University Cologne Cologne, Germany
                [2] 2Normandie Université Caen, UFR STAPS, EA 4260 Caen, France
                [3] 3Southampton Solent University Southampton, UK
                [4] 4Bournemouth University Bournemouth, UK
                [5] 5Ohio State University Columbus, OH, USA
                Author notes

                Edited by: Guido Alessandri, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

                Reviewed by: Daniel S. Quintana, University of Oslo, Norway; Waclaw Bak, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland

                *Correspondence: Sylvain Laborde, s.laborde@ 123456dshs-koeln.de

                This article was submitted to Quantitative Psychology and Measurement, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2017 Laborde, Mosley and Thayer.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 24 October 2016
                : 03 February 2017
                Page count
                Figures: 2, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 148, Pages: 18, Words: 0

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                heart rate variability,parasympathetic nervous system,vagal activity,vagal tone,cardiac vagal control,parasympathetic activity


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