Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Kristen Salomon

Keywords

allostatic load, blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, stress reactivity

Abstract

Perseverative cognition is the repetitive cognitive representation of a stressor, which includes the concepts of worry and rumination. These thoughts delay post-stress cardiovascular recovery, which may lead to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. This may be due to the negative emotional content of perseverative cognition or because it involves cognitive effort. The aim of this study was to identify the unique influences of negative emotional content and cognitive effort during recovery. Participants (N = 120) were given a demanding task purportedly as a measure of intelligence and then given false negative feedback. Immediately following, participants engaged in one of four recovery instruction conditions: think about task performance, perform a cognitive load task, watch a distracting video, or remain quietly seated. EKG, impedance cardiography, and blood pressure were recorded throughout. Perseverative cognition and cognitive load both resulted in significantly less heart rate recovery compared to the distracting video. Higher test motivation and anxiety were related to more blunted reactivity and delayed recovery of respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Reduced recovery during perseverative cognition and cognitive effort indicate that the cognitive load produced by perseveration is the pernicious component that explains its link to increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Further, the relationship between motivation/anxiety and blunted reactivity and recovery suggest effort may be important in the link between perseverative cognition and cardiovascular disease.

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