Baseline Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal Axis and Parasympathetic Nervous System Activity Interact to Predict Executive Functions in Low-Income Children

Stephen H. Braren, Annie Brandes-Aitken, Rosemarie E. Perry, Kevon Williams, Krystalle Lyons, Sashana Rowe-Harriott, Clancy Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We examined interactions between baseline hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activity in relation to executive functions (EF) in a sample (n = 1,005) of children in low wealth, nonurban communities at age 48 months. Salivary cortisol and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) represented baseline HPA axis and PNS activity, respectively. The interaction between RSA and cortisol predicted EF such that children with either lower RSA and lower cortisol, or higher RSA and higher cortisol had higher EF scores. These findings suggest a potential compensatory relation in which the PNS and HPA axis counterbalance each other to support cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-66
Number of pages6
JournalMind, Brain, and Education
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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