The present study was aimed at clarifying whether preattentive processing of heart cues results in biased perception of heart sensations in patients with congenital heart disease (ConHD) who are also highly trait anxious. Twenty-six patients with ConHD and 22 healthy participants categorized heart-related (heart rate) or neutral sensations (constant vibration) as either heart or neutral. Both sensations were evoked using a bass speaker that was attached on the chest of the participant. Before each physical sensation, a subliminal heart-related or neutral prime was presented. Biased perception of heart-sensations would become evident by a delayed categorization of the heart-related sensations. In line with the prediction, a combination of high trait anxiety and ConHD resulted in slower responses after a heart-related sensation that was preceded by a subliminal heart cue. Preattentive processing of harmless heart cues may easily elicit overperception of heart symptoms in highly trait anxious patients with ConHD.
Karsdorp, P. A., Kindt, M., Everaerd, W., & Mulder, B. J. (2007). Preattentive processing of heart cues and the perception of heart symptoms in congenital heart disease. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 1893-1902. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2007.02.010