Investigating the autonomic nervous system and cognitive functions as potential mediators of an association between cardiovascular disease and driving performance
Gaudet, Jeffrey; Bélanger, Mathieu; Corriveau, Hélène; Mekary, Said; Hay, Dean; Johnson, Michel J.
Abstract: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) impacts the autonomic nervous system and cognitive functions related to activities of daily living, including driving an automobile. Although CVD has been linked to unsafe driving, mechanisms underlying this relationship remain elusive. The aim of this study was to examine the role of cognitive functions and the autonomic nervous system as potential mediators of driving performance. Nineteen individuals having recently suffered a cardiac event and sixteen individuals with no history of CVD completed a simulated drive using a STISIM simulator to assess driving performance. Heart rate was recorded throughout testing using a Polar RS800CX heart rate monitor and measures of executive, orienting and alerting functions were obtained through the Attention Network Test. We used the Baron and Kenny analysis method to assess potential mediating effects of the relationship between CVD and driving performance. Executive function was the only potential mediator investigated to be associated with driving (p < 0.01) and CVD (p < 0.05), however, it did not appear to play a mediating role (p = 0.28). These results suggest that individuals with CVD exhibit decrements in complex cognitive tasks such as driving and that further research is needed to better understand the mechanisms underlying this relationship.
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