Emotional orienting during interoceptive threat in orthostatic intolerance: Dysautonomic contributions to psychological symptomatology in the postural tachycardia syndrome and vasovagal syncope

Andrew Owens, David A Low, Hugo D Critchley, Christopher J Mathias

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Cognitive and emotional processes are influenced by interoception (homeostatic somatic feedback), particularly when physiological arousal is unexpected and discrepancies between predicted and experienced interoceptive signals may engender anxiety. This study investigated psychophysiological contributions to emotional symptomatology in the postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) and vasovagal syncope (VVS), where there is a vulnerability for comorbid psychological symptoms. We investigated indices of emotional orienting responses (OR) to randomly presented neutral, pleasant and unpleasant images in the supine position and during the induced interoceptive threat of symptom provocation of head-up tilt (HUT). PoTS and VVS patients produced greater indices of emotional responsivity to unpleasant images and, to a lesser degree, pleasant images, during interoceptive threat. Our findings are consistent with biased deployment of response-focused emotion regulation (ER) whilst patients are symptomatic, providing a mechanistic underpinning of how pathological autonomic overexcitation predisposes to anxiogenic traits in PoTS and VVS patients. This hypothesis may improve our understanding of why orthostasis exacerbates cognitive symptoms despite apparent normal cerebral autoregulation and offer novel therapeutic targets for behavioural interventions aimed at reducing comorbid cognitive-affective symptoms in PoTS and VVS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-47
Number of pages6
JournalAutonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical
Early online date31 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

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