Individual differences in cross-system physiological activity at rest and in response to acute social stress

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Individual differences in long-term cardiovascular disease risk are related to physiological responses to psychological stress. However, little is known about specific physiological response profiles in young adults that may set the stage for long-term increased cardiovascular disease risk. We investigated individual differences in profiles of resting cardiovascular physiology and stress reactivity, combining parasympathetic, sympathetic, and hemodynamic measures.


Participants (N=744, 71% women, mean age=20.1±2.4 years) underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), while blood pressure (SBP, DBP), electrocardiograms (IBI), and impedance cardiograms (PEP, LVET) were recorded. RSA was derived from the combination of the ECG and the ICG. Three-step Latent Profile Analysis (LPA) was performed on resting and reactivity values to derive clusters of individual physiological profiles. We also explored demographic and health behavioral correlates of the observed latent clusters.


For resting physiology, LPA revealed five different resting physiology profiles, which were related to sex, usual physical activity levels and body mass index. Five cardiovascular stress reactivity profiles were identified: a reciprocal/moderate stress response (Cr1; 29%), and clusters characterized by high blood pressure reactivity (Cr2: 22%), high vagal withdrawal (Cr3; 22%), autonomic co-activation (SNS and PNS) (Cr4; 13%), and overall high reactivity (Cr5; 12%). Men were more likely to belong to the high reactivity (Cr5) cluster, while women were more likely to have autonomic co-activation (Cr4).


We identified five cardiovascular physiological reactivity profiles, with individuals displaying generalized hyper-reactivity, predominant vagal withdrawal, autonomic co-activation, or blood pressure-specific hyper-reactivity. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine whether these profiles are useful in early detection of individuals at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021

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