Stephen Porges - The Polyvagal Theory

The Polyvagal Theory

The Polyvagal Theory introduces a new perspective relating autonomic function to behavior that includes an appreciation of the autonomic nervous system as a "system," the identification of neural circuits involved in the regulation of autonomic state, and an interpretation of autonomic reactivity as adaptive within the context of the phylogeny of the vertebrate autonomic nervous system. The polyvagal perspective explores new questions, paradigms, explanations, and conclusions regarding the role that autonomic function has in the regulation of affective states and social behavior. Foremost, the polyvagal perspective emphasizes the importance of phylogenetic changes in the neural structures regulating the heart and how these phylogenetic shifts provide insights into the adaptive function of both physiology and behavior. The theory emphasizes the phylogenetic emergence of two vagal systems: a potentially lethal ancient circuit involved in defensive strategies of immobilization (e.g., fainting, dissociative states) and a newer mammalian circuit linking the heart to the face that is involved in both social engagement behaviors and in dampening reactivity of the sympathetic nervous system and the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

The Polyvagal Theory provides a new conceptualization of the autonomic nervous system that emphasizes how an understanding of neurophysiological mechanisms and phylogenetic shifts in the neural regulation of the heart leads to insights into causes and treatments of mental and physical illness. The Polyvagal Theory provides a plausible explanation of several features that are compromised during stress and observed in several psychiatric disorders.

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Polyvagal Theory - External Links
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