The compassionate vagus: A meta-analysis on the connection between compassion and heart rate variability
AuthorsDi Bello, Maria
Thayer, Julian F.
AffiliationSapienza University of Rome
University of Parma
John Cabot University, Rome
The University of California, Irvine
University of Derby
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AbstractIn recent years, increasing interest has been devoted to the physiological basis of self and other-oriented compassion. Heart rate variability (HRV) represents a promising candidate for such a role, given its association with soothing emotions and context appropriate prefrontal inhibitory control over threat-defensive responses. The aim of this study was to meta-analyze available studies on the association between compassion and HRV. Random-effect models were used. The analysis performed on sixteen studies that met inclusion criteria, yielded a significant association with a medium effect size (g = .54 95% CI [.24, .84], p < .0001). Results were not influenced by publication bias. After an extreme outlier’s exclusion, the size of the association was still larger in studies that used time or frequency-domain indices of vagally-mediated HRV compared to those that used peak to trough estimates of respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Results are limited by the small number of studies included in the meta-analysis (n = 16) and are discussed in terms of indications for future research, given that existing data are highly heterogeneous and of poor methodological rigor.
CitationDi Bello, M., Carnevali, L., Petrocchi, N., Thayer, J.F., Gilbert, P. and Ottaviani, C., (2020). 'The compassionate vagus: A meta-analysis on the connection between compassion and heart rate variability'. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 116, pp. 1-10.
JournalNeuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
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