ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 51 ›› Issue (6): 648-661.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.00648

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

HRV evidence for the improvement of emotion regulation in university students with depression tendency by working memory training

PENG Wanqing,LUO Wei,ZHOU Renlai()   

  1. Department of Psychology, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
  • Received:2018-04-04 Online:2019-06-25 Published:2019-04-25
  • Contact: Renlai ZHOU E-mail:rlzhou@nju.edu.cn

Abstract:

Emotion regulation provides an effective way to understand and control our emotion. The lack of emotion regulation skill is viewed as one of the major causes of emotional problems, such as depression, anxiety disorder and others. Researchers have attempted to find an effective way to improve individuals’ emotion regulation ability. In recent years, a promising direction is working memory updating, which is an essential element in the central executive component of working memory. Some studies suggest that working memory updating plays a critical role in modulating the emotion regulation process and that working memory updating training can enhance emotion regulation ability.

Thus, it is possible to improve depression-prone individuals’ emotion regulation ability through working memory training.

In order to examine the effect of working memory training on the emotion regulation ability of depression-prone college students, we used CES-D (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale) and BDI-II-C (Beck Depression Inventory II Chinese) evaluation to recruit 40 depression-prone students and 20 healthy students. The depression-prone students were further divided into training and control groups voluntarily. The depression-prone training group completed a 20-day working memory training program. The depression-prone control group and healthy control group did not take part in the training. Participants’ scores for 2-back and 3-back tasks, Emotion Regulation Scale (ERS) scores, subjective emotion ratings for emotion regulation tasks, and HF (High Frequency Power) HRV (Heart Rate Variability) and LF (Low Frequency Power) HRV measurements for five conditions (resting, neutral, attending, relaxed and regulation) during pre-test and post-test phases were collected and analyzed. Statistical methods, including observation and variance analysis, were used to compare collected data from the three groups.

We found a significant main effect of condition on subjective emotion ratings. Participants’ subjective emotion scores for the regulation and attending conditions were significantly higher than those for the neutral condition. In addition, the emotion scores for the regulation condition were significantly lower than those for the attending condition. As for the HRV data, during the pre-test phase, the depression-prone training and control groups had no significant difference with respect to HF-HRV, and their HF-HRV was significantly lower than that of the healthy control group. As for the ratio of LF/HF-HRV, a significant condition × group interaction was found. Resting LF/HF-HRV of the healthy control group was significantly higher than that of the depression-prone training and control groups. During the post-test phase, there was a significant increase in HF-HRV for the depression-prone training group. HF-HRV for the depression-prone training group became closer to that of the healthy control group and was marginally significantly higher than that of the depression-prone control group. Moreover, HF-HRV for the depression-prone training group was significantly higher with respect to the regulation condition than the resting condition, while there was no difference for the other two groups. During the post-test phase, the ratio of LF/HF-HRV for the depression-prone training group was significantly higher than for the depression-prone control group, and there was no significant difference between the depression-prone training group and the healthy control group.

In conclusion, the HRV data for the depression-prone training group was more similar to that of the healthy control group during the post-test phase than that of the depression-prone control group, which indicated an improvement in emotional regulation ability. For future research, a larger sample size and a more sophisticated experimental paradigm for HRV data collection are needed.

Key words: depression tendency, working memory updating training, emotion regulation ability, heart rate variability (HRV)

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