Journal Article Effects of the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task (PASAT) with different rates on autonomic nervous system responses and self-reported levels of stress

Tanosoto, Tomohiro  ,  Bendixen, Karina H.  ,  Arima, Taro  ,  Hansen, John  ,  Terkelsen, Astrid J.  ,  Svensson, Peter

42 ( 5 )  , pp.378 - 385 , 2015-05 , Wiley-Blackwell
To characterise self-reported levels of stress and autonomic responses in healthy humans evoked by different rates of the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task (PASAT). Fifteen participants performed PASATs with different rates (3·6-, 2·4-, 1·6- or 1·2-s intervals) and a control task, in random order. Correct responses, self-reported levels of stress and autonomic responses to the PASATs were estimated. Increased PASAT rates were associated with decreases in correct responses (P < 0·001) and increases in self-reported levels of stress (P < 0·001). For autonomic responses, significant changes were seen in 10 variables during 2·4-s PASAT compared with the respective baseline; however, significant differences in relative changes from baseline were found between the 2·4-s PASAT and control task only for mean RR-intervals (P < 0·001), systolic and diastolic blood pressure (P = 0·002 and P = 0·006) and cardiac output (P < 0·001). Regarding comparison between the four PASATs, significant differences in the relative changes from baseline were seen between the 3·6-s PASAT and faster PASATs, for example mean RR-intervals, high-frequency power and respiration rate; however, there were no differences between the faster PASATs. The autonomic responses during the PASATs with different rates were quite similar for the faster PASATs (intervals < 2·4 s); however, the slowest 3·6-s PASAT evoked significantly less self-reported stress and autonomic arousal compared with the faster PASATs. Standardization of the PASAT rate may be important for studies on autonomic nervous system function and self-reported measures of stress. Future studies may test more complex interactions between stress, autonomic responses and pain responses.

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