Nav: Home

How the heart affects our perception

April 28, 2020

The first mechanism establishes a relationship between the phase of the heartbeat and conscious experience. In a regular rhythm, the heart contracts in the so-called systolic phase and pumps blood into the body. In a second phase, the diastolic phase, the blood flows back and the heart fills up again. In a previous publication from the MPI CBS, it was reported that perception of external stimuli changes with the heartbeat. In systole, we are less likely to detect a weak electric stimulus in the finger compared to diastole.

Now, in a new study, Esra Al and colleagues have found the reason for this change in perception: Brain activity is changing over the heart cycle. In systole a specific component of brain activity, which is associated with consciousness, the so called P300-component is suppressed. In other words, it seems that - in systole - the brain makes sure that certain information is kept out of conscious experience. The brain seems to take into account the pulse which floods the body in systole and predicts that pulse-associated bodily changes are "not real" but rather due to the pulse. Normally, this helps us to not be constantly disturbed by our pulse. However, when it comes to weak stimuli which coincide with systole we might miss them, although they are real.

During their investigations on heart-brain interactions, Al and colleagues also revealed a second effect of heartbeat on perception: If a person's brain shows a higher response to the heartbeat, the processing of the stimulus in the brain is attenuated - the person detects the stimulus less. "This seems to be a result of directing our attention between external environmental signals and internal bodily signals.", explains study author Al. In other words, a large heartbeat-evoked potential seems to reflect a "state of mind", in which we are more focused on the functioning of our inner organs such as the blood circulation, however less aware of stimuli from the outside world.

The results not only have implications for our understanding of heart-brain interactions in healthy persons, but also in patients. The senior author, Arno Villringer explains, "The new results might help to explain why patients after stroke often suffer from cardiac problems and why patients with cardiac disease often have impaired cognitive function."

The researchers investigated these relationships by sending weak electrical stimuli to electrodes clamped onto the study participants fingers. In parallel, they recorded each participants' brain processes using an EEG and their cardiac activity using an EKG.
-end-


Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences

Related Brain Activity Articles:

Using personal frequency to control brain activity
Individual frequency can be used to specifically influence certain areas of the brain and thus the abilities processed in them - solely by electrical stimulation on the scalp, without any surgical intervention.
Rats' brain activity reveals their alcohol preference
The brain's response to alcohol varies based on individual preferences, according to new research in rats published in eNeuro.
Studies of brain activity aren't as useful as scientists thought
Hundreds of published studies over the last decade have claimed it's possible to predict an individual's patterns of thoughts and feelings by scanning their brain in an MRI machine as they perform some mental tasks.
A child's brain activity reveals their memory ability
A child's unique brain activity reveals how good their memories are, according to research recently published in JNeurosci.
How dopamine drives brain activity
Using a specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sensor that can track dopamine levels, MIT neuroscientists have discovered how dopamine released deep within the brain influences distant brain regions.
Brain activity intensity drives need for sleep
The intensity of brain activity during the day, notwithstanding how long we've been awake, appears to increase our need for sleep, according to a new UCL study in zebrafish, published in Neuron.
Do babies like yawning? Evidence from brain activity
Contagious yawning is observed in many mammals, but there is no such report in human babies.
Understanding brain activity when you name what you see
Using complex statistical methods and fast measurement techniques, researchers found how the brain network comes up with the right word and enables us to say it.
Your brain activity can be used to measure how well you understand a concept
As students learn a new concept, measuring how well they grasp it has often depended on traditional paper and pencil tests.
Altered brain activity in antisocial teenagers
Teenage girls with problematic social behavior display reduced brain activity and weaker connectivity between the brain regions implicated in emotion regulation.
More Brain Activity News and Brain Activity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.