Respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity of internet addiction abusers in negative and positive emotional states using film clips stimulation (2016)

Biomed Eng Online. 2016 Jul 4;15(1):69.

Hsieh DL1,2, Hsiao TC3,4,5.



People with internet addiction (IA) suffer from mental, physical, social, and occupational problems. IA includes psychological and physiological syndromes, and among the syndromes, emotion was suggested important mental and physiological expressions of IA. However, few physiologically emotional characters of IA were investigated. Autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity was a good link between IA and emotion, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) gained from ANS was hypothesized related to IA.


An emotional induction experiment using negative and positive emotional films was conducted to validate the hypotheses. Thirty-four participants recruited from college were classified into high-risk IA group (HIA) and low-risk IA group (LIA). The respiratory signals, ECG signals, and self-assessed emotional intensity were acquired. The relationship and difference between IA and RSA was tested using descriptive statistics and inferential statistics.


The RSA values of HIA were lower than those of LIA both before and after the induction of positive and negative emotions. When participants experienced a negative emotion (anger or fear), their RSA values declined; the decline for HIA was greater than that for LIA. The RSA values of HIA participants before induction of fear, happiness, or surprise, statistically significantly differed from that after induction of those emotions, with p values of 0.007, 0.04 and 0.01 respectively. The difference between the changes in RSA values upon the induction of surprise of HIA and LIA was statistically significant difference (p = 0.03). The interaction between two IA groups among emotional induction states was statistically significant difference.


RSA value here was the main variable that reflected ANS activity, and especially vagus nerve regulation. The results revealed that the changes in RSA values were biologically significantly different between HIA and LIA, especially when sadness, happiness, or surprise was induced. HIA people exhibited stronger RSA reactivity following negative emotion than LIA people, but the RSA reactivity following positive emotion was weaker. This study provides more physiological information about IA and assists further investigation on the regulation of the ANS for IA abusers. The results will benefit the further application, early detection, therapy, and even early prevention. Clinical trial registration details This study was approved by the Institution Review Board of the National Taiwan University Hospital, Hsinchu Branch (Hsinchu, Taiwan), under the research project: A study of interactions between cognition, emotion and physiology (contract no.100IRB-32).


Autonomic nervous system; Emotion; Internet addiction; Linear model; Respiratory sinus arrhythmia; Vagus nerve regulation