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By Dr. Andrew Steptoe, Dr. Heinz Rüddel, Dr. Hermann Neus (auth.), Dr. Andrew Steptoe, Dr. Heinz Rüddel, Dr. Hermann Neus (eds.)

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Psychol Bull 91: 292-323 Matthews KA, Glass DC, Rosenman RH, Bortner RW (1977) Competitive drive, pattern A, and coronary heart disease: a further analysis of some data from the Western Collaborative Group Study. J Chron Dis 30: 489-498 Nestel PJ (1969) Blood pressure and catecholamine excretion after mental stress in labile hypertension. Lancet I: 692-694 Obrist PA (1976) The cardiovascular-behavioral interaction - as it appears today. Psychophysiology 13: 95-107 Obrist PA (1981) Cardiovascular Psychophysiology: a perspective.

Subjects may differ in the sequence and nature of the elementary information processes they apply; they may also differ in the choice of the internal representation they use (ie, either analogue or symbolic). Therefore one way to characterise a strategy is by its component processes and the organisation of these in a coherent whole. Second, strategies are considered modifiable and flexible. In general, strategy refers to a set of internal cognitive procedures, a set that can be modified. One reason for the observed physiological difference between subjects during the performance of cognitive tasks may be the strategy the subject uses in order to cope with the demands of the task.

These states are accompanied by periods of high catecholamine excitation and inhibition respectively. Such periods of alternating vagal and sympathetic activation can also be observed in the cardiac evoked response during the performance of the cognitive task. In addition, the vagus may also exercise a protective function. Establishing reliable individual differences in the vagal control of the heart would therefore appear to be a major step in identifying individuals at risk. The use of cogni tive tasks in which vagal modulation of cardiac activity is reliably observed can be highly recommended in epidemiological research.

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