Palomba, D., Sarlo, M., Angrilli, A., & Stegagno, L. (2000). Cardiac responses associated with affective processing of unpleasant film stimuli. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 36, 45-57.

Abstract:  The autonomic basis of cardiac reactions to unpleasant film stimuli was investigated. Film clips depicting major surgery, threats of violence, and neutral material were presented to 46 non-phobic 22-29 yr-olds. Self-report measures of emotion were obtained, as well as heart rate, respiration rate, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, T-wave amplitude, and skin conductance level. Resting vagal tone was estimated in a paced breathing task prior to film viewing. Spontaneous blink rate was also taken as a measure of visual engagement during film viewing. Coherent increases in sympathetic activation accompanied the film containing violent threats, whereas the surgery film yielded greater electrodermal activation, as well as heart rate deceleration and T-wave increase. These data support the hypothesis of differential autonomic response patterns to specifically unpleasant material. As compared with threat and neutral films, greater blink rate inhibition was observed during the surgery film. Individual differences in parasympathetic cardiac control measured at rest were able to discriminate cardiac response patterns during film viewing. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2004 APA, all rights reserved)