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The neurovisceral integration model (Thayer, J. F., & Lane, R. D., 2000, A model of neurovisceral
integration in emotion regulation and dysregulation. Journal of Affective Disorders, 61, 201–216.
doi:10.1016/S0165-0327(00)00338-4) proposes that individual differences in heart rate variability
(HRV)—an index of cardiac vagal tone—are associated with attentional and emotional self-regulation.
In this article, we demonstrate that individual differences in resting HRV predict the functioning of the
inhibition of return (IOR), an inhibitory attentional mechanism highly adaptive to novelty search, in
response to affectively significant face cues. As predicted, participants with lower HRV exhibited a
smaller IOR effect to fearful versus neutral face cues than participants with higher HRV, which shows
a failure to inhibit attention from affectively significant cues and instigate novelty search. In contrast,
participants with higher HRV exhibited similar IOR effects to fearful and neutral face cues, which shows
an ability to inhibit attention from cues and instigate novelty search. Their ability to inhibit attention was
most pronounced to high spatial frequency fearful face cues, suggesting that this effect may be mediated
by cortical mechanisms. The current research demonstrates that individual differences in HRV predict
attentional inhibition and suggests that successful inhibition and novelty search may be mediated by
cortical inhibitory mechanisms among people with high cardiac vagal tone.