HEPLAB: Matlab scripts to facilitate heartbeat-evoked potential analysis

The heartbeat-evoked potential is a measure of the brain’s electromagnetic response to individual heartbeats that is emerging as a novel and promising index of brain-body communication. Just like any other evoked brain potential, its visualisation and quantitive assessment require the averaging of several trials to reduce the influence of fluctuations that are not related to the evoking stimulus. Although the process of creating custom events that correspond to the R-peak of the electrocardiographic signal is pretty straightforward, to my knowledge there is still no commercial software to facilitate this task. Continue reading “HEPLAB: Matlab scripts to facilitate heartbeat-evoked potential analysis”

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Our preprint on brain-heart communication in athletes and sedentary young adults, available for peer review

Our recent research, revealing significant differences in how the brains of physically trained and sedentary young adults process information from the heart, is now available for commentary and formal peer review in two preprint repositories: SJS (@social_sjs) and bioRxiv (@biorxivpreprint). Each of these repositories comes with advantages and disadvantages. BioRxiv is already backed by a large community, provides a DOI for indexing and citing, and tracks article usage statistics across the web. Its big disadvantage is that, just like in any other repository, articles simply sit there waiting to be published in a traditional journal in order to acquire some quality indicator —no matter how inaccurate and perverse— that will inform readers and be useful for authors in the advancement of their careers. SJS, on the other hand, is the first and only repository that facilitates a formal peer review process. Its big disadvantage is that it is not yet supported by a big community that would ensure sustainability and greater visibility. Continue reading “Our preprint on brain-heart communication in athletes and sedentary young adults, available for peer review”

How to detect the B point in impedance cardiography

Our new article, published in Psychophysiology and freely available from my Publications page, compares the accuracy of the three algorithms for B point detection included in Biopac’s popular software Acknowledge. We found unexpected and dramatic differences in the accuracy of these three algorithms, with the one based on the third derivative of the impedance cardiogram performing significantly better. In our article, we also provide a decision tree to help in the manual detection of the B point, especially by young and inexperienced researchers.

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Our two recent papers uncover a novel relation between neural and cardiac indices of enhanced attention in young athletes

In two recent papers published in the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Medicine, and in Scientific Reports, we showed that young athletes perform better in a sustained attention task compared to their sedentary counterparts. Interestingly, the benefits of exercise on attention are observed only during the first 30 minutes of the 1-hour task. After that, there are no differences in the performance of the two groups. We observe that during this enhanced attention period, athletes also exhibit significantly different EEG and heart period event-related potentials (ERPs). This novel finding points towards a previously unrecognised brain-heart interaction in the mediation of cognitive benefits induced by physical exercise. These interesting results on the role of regular exercise on attention have also attracted the attention of Spanish popular science journals.

Our new paper about stress in crisis managers published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine

In this recently published study we compared 30 experienced crisis managers with 30 managers from other disciplines, in terms of self-reported stress, health status and psychophysiological reactivity to crisis-related and non-specific visual and acoustic aversive stimuli and cognitive challenge. Crisis managers reported lower stress levels, a more positive strain-recuperation-balance, greater social resources, reduced physical symptoms, as well as more physical exercise and less alcohol consumption. They exhibited diminished electrodermal and heart rate responses to crisis-related and non-specific stressors.

The results indicate reduced stress and physical complaints, diminished psychophysiological stress reactivity, and a healthier life-style in crisis managers. Improved stress resistance may limit vulnerability to stress-related performance decline and facilitate preparedness for major incidents.

Download the entire article here.

The Laboratory for Network Physiology launches its official website

NetworkPhysiology-logoThe Laboratory for Network Physiology directed by Plamen Ch. Ivanov recently launched its official website. Professor Ivanov, with whom I collaborate closely for the past six years, is leading a unique team of statistical physicists, neuroscientists, applied mathematicians and biomedical engineers that have as their mission to understand how organ systems dynamically interact and collectively behave as a network to produce health or disease. This coordinated effort proposes a new scientific field, Network Physiology, to probe the network of interactions among diverse physiologic systems.

In the website interested readers can find information about the group’s research projects, publications, news, job opportunities and more.

Visit the website here.

Losing money is more stressful than bribing! Our new Frontiers article explores the physiology of corrupt behavior

In our recently article published in “Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience“, we show that high emotional arousal is not solely associated to unethical economic behavior —such as tax evasion— as previous research had revealed. Instead, people get emotionally aroused also when making ethical choices if these choices imply the loss of monetary reward. In other words, it seems to be more stressful for someone to lose money than to make an unethical decision that causes a loss of money to others. This means that, in certain circumstances, our bodies reward unethical decisions in order to minimise the unpleasant feeling produced by decisions that cost us money. This behavior is inverted when the possibility of punishment exists. In that case corrupt decisions become more stressful than ethical ones.

These results support the existence of severe external control in economic transactions and bare important consequences for the political fight against corruption.

You can read the full article here