Genetic Determinants of Individual Differences in Cardiovascular Reactivity

Part of the The Springer Series in Behavioral Psychophysiology and Medicine book series (SSBP)


In this chapter we shall explore the genetic origins of individual differences in cardiovascular reactivity by examining studies that have employed the classical twin design to investigate the genetic and environmental determination of individual variation in cardiovascular response to psychological challenge. While the following research provides a good example of how behavior genetics can usefully be employed in behavioral medicine, it is not the only case of the successful marriage of these two disciplines. Other instances include the study of metabolic rate (Hewitt et al., 1991), obesity (Fabsitz et al., 1992; Stunkard et al., 1986; see also Stunkard, 1991), type A behavior (Sims et al., 1991; Tambs et al., 1992), and addictive behaviors including smoking (Carmelli et al., 1992) and drinking (Heath et al., 1991). The interfacing of behavior genetic analysis strategies and behavioral medicine experimental paradigms is likely to increase in the future as the power of these genetic strategies is realized more and more by researchers in behavioral medicine (see Turner et al., 1993a).


Twin Pair Behavioral Medicine Twin Study Cardiovascular Reactivity Dizygotic Twin 
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Further Reading

  1. 1.
    Carmelli, D., Ward, M.M., Reed, T., Grim, C.E., Harshfield, G.A., and Fabsitz, R.R. (1991). Genetic effects on cardiovascular responses to cold and mental activity in late adulthood. American Journal of Hypertension, 4, 239–244.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Carroll, D., Hewitt, J.K., Last, K.A., Turner, J.R., and Sims, J. (1985). A twin study of cardiac reactivity and its relationship to parental blood pressure. Physiology and Behavior, 34, 103–106.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ditto, B. (1993). Familial influences on heart rate, blood pressure, and self-report anxiety responses to stress: Results from 100 twin pairs. Psychophysiology,in press.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ewart, C.K. (1991). Familial transmission of essential hypertension: Genes, environments, and chronic anger. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 13, 40–47.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Neale, M.C., and Cardon, L.R. (1992). Methodology for genetic studies of twins and families. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Plomin, R. (1990). The role of inheritance in behavior. Science, 248, 183–188.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Plomin, R., DeFries, J.D., and McClearn, G.E. (1990). Behavioral genetics ( 2nd ed. ). New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Rose, R.J. (1992). Genes, stress, and cardiovascular reactivity. In J.R. Turner, A. Sherwood, and K.C. Light (Eds.), Individual differences in cardiovascular response to stress (pp. 87–102 ). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Turner, J.R., Carroll, D., Sims, J., Hewitt, J.K., and Kelly, K.A. (1986). Temporal and inter-task consistency of heart rate reactivity during active psychological challenge: A twin study. Physiology and Behavior, 38, 641–644.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Turner, J.R., and Hewitt, J.K. (1992). Twin studies of cardiovascular response to psychological challenge: A review and suggested future directions. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 14, 12–20.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TennesseeMemphisUSA

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