Cognitive Processing

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 557–561 | Cite as

Learning by heart—the relationship between resting vagal tone and metacognitive judgments: a pilot study

  • Judith MeessenEmail author
  • Stefan Sütterlin
  • Siegfried Gauggel
  • Thomas Forkmann
Short Communication


Metacognitive awareness and resting vagally mediated heart rate variability (HRV) as a physiological trait marker of cognitive inhibitory control capacities are both associated with better well-being and seem to share a common neural basis. Executive functioning which is considered a prerequisite for delivering prospective metacognitive judgments has been found to be correlated with HRV. This pilot study addresses the question, whether metacognitive awareness and resting vagally mediated HRV are positively associated. A sample of 20 healthy participants was analyzed that completed a typical Judgment of Learning task after an electrocardiogram had been recorded. The root-mean-squares of successive differences were used to calculate vagally mediated HRV. Metacognitive awareness was measured by comparing the judgments of learning with the actual memory performance, yielding a deviation score. HRV was found to be positively correlated with metacognitive awareness. Results suggest that metacognitive abilities might relate to physiological trait markers of cognitive inhibitory control capacities. Further experimental studies are needed to investigate causal relations.


Vagal tone Metacognition Awareness Memory 



This research project was supported by the START-program of the Faculty of Medicine, RWTH Aachen (Grant Number 691301) as well as the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research (IZKF) Aachen within the Faculty of Medicine of RWTH Aachen University. All authors have no potential competing interest concerning submission of the manuscript “Learning by heart—the relationship between resting vagal tone and metacognitive judgments: a pilot study” to the journal “Cognitive Processing.”

Supplementary material

10339_2018_865_MOESM1_ESM.docx (120 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 120 kb)


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of Health and Welfare SciencesØstfold University CollegeHaldenNorway
  3. 3.Division of Surgery and Clinical NeuroscienceOslo University HospitalOsloNorway
  4. 4.Institute of Medical Psychology and Medical SociologyUniversity Hospital of RWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  5. 5.Department of Clinical Psychology, Institute of PsychologyUniversity of Duisburg-EssenDuisburgGermany

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