Coupling between Prefrontal Brain Activity and Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia in Infants and Adults
Self-regulation is an essential aspect of healthy child development. Even though infants depend on their caregivers for co-regulation during the first years, they begin to gain regulatory abilities through social interactions as well as their own developing agency and inhibitory control. These early regulatory abilities continue to increase with the development of both the prefrontal cortex and the vagal system. Importantly, theoretical accounts have suggested that the prefrontal cortex and the vagal system are linked through forward and backward feedback loops via the limbic system. Decreased coupling within this link is suggested to be associated with psychopathology.
The primary goal of this study was to examine whether intrapersonal coupling of prefrontal brain activity and respiratory sinus arrhythmia is evident in infancy. Using the simultaneous assessment of functional near-infrared spectroscopy and electrocardiography, we used Cross-Recurrence Quantification Analysis to assess the coupling of prefrontal brain activity and respiratory sinus arrhythmia in 69 4- to 6-month-old infants and their mothers during a passive viewing condition. However, we did not find significant coupling between the PFC and RSA in infants and adult caregivers. Future studies could examine social contexts associated with greater emotional reactivity to deepen our understanding of the pathways involved in self-regulation.
respiratory-sinus arrhythmia, fNIRS, prefrontal cortex, vagus nerve, self-regulation, brain-body connection
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