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31-03-2020 | Brief Report

When are Worry and Rumination Negatively Associated with Resting Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia? It Depends: The Moderating Role of Cognitive Reappraisal

Cognitive Therapy and Research
Andre J. Plate, Emily J. Dunn, Kara Christensen, Amelia Aldao
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Recent research has highlighted the importance of testing interactions between adaptive and maladaptive emotion regulation strategies when examining their associations with mental health. However, there has been little work on the interaction between adaptive strategies such as cognitive reappraisal and two forms of repetitive negative thinking (RNT)—worry and rumination. Furthermore, prior research has exclusively relied on self-report measures to assess mental health as the primary outcome and more research is needed to understand the psychophysiological correlates of emotion regulation. To address these limitations, we tested the interaction between cognitive reappraisal and RNT when predicting resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia, which measures heart rate variability across the respiratory cycle and is conceptualized as a transdiagnostic biomarker for psychopathology and emotion regulation capacities. We also predicted depression symptoms as a secondary outcome in an attempt to replicate prior research. In a sample of 233 undergraduates, we found that RNT had a negative association with resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia, but only among participants who reported low levels of cognitive reappraisal use. The effect of RNT on depressive symptoms was not moderated by cognitive reappraisal use. Overall, these results suggest that worry and rumination might have the most detrimental links with physiological functioning when people do not frequently use cognitive reappraisal to regulate affect. This study also underscores the necessity of utilizing psychophysiological measures when modeling interactions between regulatory strategies.

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