The relationship between neurocognitive performance and HRV parameters in nurses and non-healthcare participants

Taryn Chalmers, Shamona Eaves, Ty Lees, Chin Teng Lin, Phillip J. Newton, Roderick Clifton-Bligh, Craig S. McLachlan, Sylvia M. Gustin, Sara Lal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Nurses represent the largest sector of the healthcare workforce, and it is established that they are faced with ongoing physical and mental demands that leave many continuously stressed. In turn, this chronic stress may affect cardiac autonomic activity, which can be non-invasively evaluated using heart rate variability (HRV). The association between neurocognitive parameters during acute stress situations and HRV has not been previously explored in nurses compared to non-nurses and such, our study aimed to assess these differences. Neurocognitive data were obtained using the Mini-Mental State Examination and Cognistat psychometric questionnaires. ECG-derived HRV parameters were acquired during the Trier Social Stress Test. Between-group differences were found in domain-specific cognitive performance for the similarities (p =.03), and judgment (p =.002) domains and in the following HRV parameters: SDNNbaseline, (p =.004), LFpreparation (p =.002), SDNNpreparation (p =.002), HFpreparation (p =.02), and TPpreparation (p =.003). Negative correlations were found between HF power and domain-specific cognitive performance in nurses. In contrast, both negative and positive correlations were found between HRV and domain-specific cognitive performance in the non-nurse group. The current findings highlight the prospective use of autonomic HRV markers in relation to cognitive performance while building a relationship between autonomic dysfunction and cognition.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • cognitive performance
  • electrocardiography
  • heart rate variability
  • mental health
  • nurses


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