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      Orienting in a defensive world: Mammalian modifications of our evolutionary heritage. A Polyvagal Theory

      Psychophysiology

      Wiley

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          Abstract

          The vagus, the 10th cranial nerve, contains pathways that contribute to the regulation of the internal viscera, including the heart. Vagal efferent fibers do not originate in a common brainstem structure. The Polyvagal Theory is introduced to explain the different functions of the two primary medullary source nuclei of the vagus: the nucleus ambiguus (NA) and the dorsal motor nucleus (DMNX). Although vagal pathways from both nuclei terminate on the sinoatrial node, it is argued that the fibers originating in NA are uniquely responsible for respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). Divergent shifts in RSA and heart rate are explained by independent actions of DMNX and NA. The theory emphasizes a phylogenetic perspective and speculates that mammalian, but not reptilian, brainstem organization is characterized by a ventral vagal complex (including NA) related to processes associated with attention, motion, emotion, and communication. Various clinical disorders, such as sudden infant death syndrome and asthma, may be related to the competition between DMNX and NA.

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          Most cited references62

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          Autonomic determinism: the modes of autonomic control, the doctrine of autonomic space, and the laws of autonomic constraint.

          Contemporary findings reveal that the multiple modes of autonomic control do not lie along a single continuum extending from parasympathetic to sympathetic dominance but rather distribute within a 2-dimensional space. The physiological origins and empirical documentation for the multiple modes of autonomic control are considered. Then a formal 2-dimensional conception of autonomic space is proposed, and a quantitative model for its translation into a functional output surface is derived. It is shown that this model (a) accounts for much of the error variance that has traditionally plagued psychophysiological studies, (b) subsumes psychophysiological principles such as the law of initial values, (c) gives rise to formal laws of autonomic constraint, and (d) has fundamental implications for the direction and interpretation of a wide array of psychophysiological studies.
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            Cardiovascular Psychophysiology

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              Heart-rate change as a component of the orienting response.

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Psychophysiology
                Psychophysiology
                Wiley
                0048-5772
                1469-8986
                July 1995
                July 1995
                : 32
                : 4
                : 301-318
                Article
                10.1111/j.1469-8986.1995.tb01213.x
                7652107
                5f5378d2-6fd8-48ab-8457-b4b7f0659eec
                © 1995

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