Author: Paul Grossman1
1 Department of Psychosomatic Medicine University Hospital Basel, Switzerland. Electronic address: email@example.com.
Conference/Journal: Biol Psychol
Date published: 2023 May 23
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2023.108589. , Word Count: 269
The polyvagal collection of hypotheses is based upon five essential premises, as stated by its author (Porges, 2011). Polyvagal conjectures rest on a primary assumption that the brainstem ventral and dorsal regions in mammals each have their own unique mediating effects upon vagal control of heart rate. The polyvagal hypotheses link these putative dorsal- vs. ventral-vagal differences to socioemotional behavior (e.g. defensive immobilization, and social affiliative behaviors, respectively), as well as to trends in the evolution of the vagus nerve (e.g. Porges, 2011 & 2021a). Additionally, it is essential to note that only one measurable phenomenon-as index of vagal processes-serves as the linchpin for virtually every premise. That phenomenon is respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), heart-rate changes coordinated to phase of respiration (i.e. inspiration vs. expiration), often employed as an index of vagally, or parasympathetically, mediated control of heart rate. The polyvagal hypotheses assume that RSA is a mammalian phenomenon, since Porges (2011) states "RSA has not been observed in reptiles." I will here briefly document how each of these basic premises have been shown to be either untenable or highly implausible based on the available scientific literature. I will also argue that the polyvagal reliance upon RSA as equivalent to general vagal tone or even cardiac vagal tone is conceptually a category mistake (Ryle, 1949), confusing an approximate index (i.e. RSA) of a phenomenon (some general vagal process) with the phenomenon, itself.
Keywords: Autonomic; Cardiac vagal tone; Dorsal vagal motor nucleus; Measurement of respiratory sinus arrhythmia; Neuroanatomy of the vagus; Parasympathetic; Polyvagal; Respiratory sinus arrhythmia; Sociality; Vagus; Ventral vagal nucleus Ambiguus; Vertebrate evolution; heart-rate variability.
PMID: 37230290 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2023.108589