Le Vendredi 08 décembre 2023 à 11H nous aurons le plaisir d’accueillir Lukas Boegge, Doctorant sous la direction de Pascale Piolino.

Abstract : Body and mind are interwoven, as physical states influence cognition while cognitive demands drive physiological regulation. Heart rate variability (HRV), which is the naturally occurring fluctuation of the heart rate, reflects such regulatory processes that are controlled by the autonomic nervous system’s sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. HRV is a crucial biomarker of autonomic activity and brain-heart interactions and is also connected with cognitive functions underlying self-regulation. There is a proposed linkage between parasympathetic (vagally) mediated HRV and cognition, driven by shared cortical and subcortical brain regions, primarily the prefrontal cortex that regulate autonomic and behavioral responses. Such a connection has been convincingly established for cognitive control, which supports goal-directed behavior. Nevertheless, the associations were founded on relatively simple measures (global correlation with HRV measured during rest) and have not been systematically expanded to cognitive functions beyond cognitive or affective control. A number of cognitive processes engage brain hubs that are also involved in autonomic control, notably, self-referential processing, which consists in relating information to oneself (e.g., one’s name or thoughts). Yet previous research has paid little to no attention to higher-level cognitive functions related to cognitive control and self-referential processing, such as long-term memory and future-oriented thinking. Preliminary results indicate that the use of HRV biofeedback, a self-regulation training technique that enhances vagally mediated HRV, can lead to an improvement in cognitive control. However, there is limited evidence supporting the notion that an increase in vagally mediated HRV produces the desired effects. Based on the neurovisceral theory of autonomic control and cognition and the insufficient number of studies examining the biofeedback effect on higher-level cognitive functions and its correlation to changes in HRV, this thesis aims to explore the cognitive benefits of HRV biofeedback and to investigate the body-mind interaction of the autonomic nervous system with memory and future thinking through cognitive control and self-reference processes. Biofeedback and cognitive assessments were implemented in immersive virtual reality to increase experimental robustness and control. Three randomized and placebo-controlled experiments were conducted among healthy young adults. A longitudinal study first explored the HRV biofeedback effect on cognitive control and self-referential episodic memory, revealing benefits which persisted beyond the training period and which were associated with the degree of HRV stimulation during training. In the second and third studies, HRV biofeedback was integrated for the first time with cognitive tasks in a single session to investigate how HRV stimulation during cognitive processing influences long-term declarative memory and past and future thinking. True-false memory discrimination performance and thought properties of episodic (autobiographical) memory and episodic future thinking were examined to evaluate self-referential processing and cognitive control over memory and thought. In summary, the study’s results validate the neurovisceral integration model and vagal tank theory, presenting additional understanding of how autonomic control affects (higher-level) cognitive functions and how HRV biofeedback can enhance them. They add new insight how improved cardiac vagal control through HRV biofeedback can promote adaptive thinking even in healthy individuals. Future research is required to substantiate the interaction between autonomic, executive, emotional, and self-referential processes, and the utility of HRV biofeedback for preventive mental health care.