An exploration of the genetic and environmental etiology of heart rate in infancy and middle childhood.
Heart rate was recorded on 210 MZ and 174 DZ same sex twin pairs participating in the MacArthur Longitudinal Twin Study (MALTS) at age 14, 20, 24, 36 months and 7 years. Heart rate was monitored in the laboratory at all ages. At ages 14 to 36 months, heart rate was monitored prior to a set of cognitive tasks. At age 7 years heart rate was recorded during a mood-eliciting videotaped presentation. At this age only heart rate monitored during neutral portions of the presentation were used. Mean heart rate declines substantially across this age range, but is similar in boys and girls and for MZ and DZ twins at each age. Heart rate is moderately correlated across all time points suggesting that individual differences in heart rate are relatively stable over this age range. Multivariate genetic and environmental models were fitted to the raw data. In general, genetic factors contribute to the stability of individual differences over time. Shared and non-shared environment factors tended to be occasion specific, with non-shared environment contributing substantially to the individual variation at each age. Shared environment and non-shared environment also contributed a modicum to the stability across time. Thus, individual differences in resting heart rate is a relatively stable, heritable trait from infancy to early childhood.