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The current research examines individual differences in flexible emotional attention. In two experiments,
we investigated the relationship between individual differences in cardiac vagal tone and top-down and
bottom-up processes associated with emotional attention. To help determine the role of cortical and
subcortical mechanisms underlying top-down and bottom-up emotional attention, fearful faces at broad,
high, and low spatial frequency were presented as cues that triggered either exogenous or endogenous
orienting. Participants with lower heart rate variability (HRV) exhibited faster attentional engagement to
low-spatial-frequency fearful faces at short stimulus-onset asynchronies, but showed delayed attentional
disengagement from high-spatial-frequency fearful faces at long stimulus-onset asynchronies in contrast
to participants with higher HRV. This research suggests that cardiac vagal tone is associated with more
adaptive top-down and bottom-up modulation of emotional attention. Implications for various affective
disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders, and posttraumatic stress disorder, are discussed.