Psychophysiological Processes in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease
Andrew Steptoe University of London
The prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a multidisciplinary endeavor involving all the biomedical and social sciences that contribute to behavioral medicine. The purpose of this chapter is to outline the contributions that can be made by psychophysiology. The first section describes the features that characterize psychophysiology, and then reviews the research paradigms that are typically utilized. The remaining sections discuss the relevance of psychophysiological methods to CVD prevention, focusing on three issues: psychophysiological methods in the investigation of etiological processes, the use of psychophysiology in the prediction of vulnerability to cardiac events in people with preexisting coronary artery disease (CAD), and the role of psychophysiology in treatment and rehabilitation programs.
A recent authoritative text edited by Cacioppo and Tassinary ( 1) defined psychophysiology as "the scientific study of cognitive, emotional and behavioral phenomena as related to and revealed through physiological principles and events" (p. ix). This is only one of numerous definitions put forward since the discipline of psychophysiology was established some 40 years ago. It is so broad as to accommodate much of behavioral medicine and physiological psychology, as well as psychophysiology as it is currently practiced. But arguing about formal definitions is a frustrating enterprise because it is improbable that a single for-