Stephen Porges

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Stephen Porges
Steve Porges.jpg
Born 1945
New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
Residence Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Nationality American
Fields Biological Psychology
Institutions University of North Carolina (professor)
Alma mater Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; USA
Known for The Polyvagal Theory

Stephen W. Porges is a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in North Carolina. Prior to moving to North Carolina, Professor Porges directed the Brain-Body Center in the department of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he also held appointments in the departments of psychology, bioEngineering, and worked as an adjunct in the department of neurosocience which he found suited him and it became his priority. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. Porges served as chair of the department of human development and director of the institute for child study. He is a former president of the Society for psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences (now called the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences), a consortium of societies representing approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He was a recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development award. He has chaired the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, maternal and child health research committee and was a visiting scientist in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Laboratory of Comparative Ethology. He was awarded a patent on a methodology to describe neural regulation of the heart, and today is a lead neuroscientist with particular interests in cranial nerve responses as it relates to both animal and man in which there are specified responses that are physiological in the body. In 1994 he proposed the polyvagal theory providing insight into the mechanism mediating symptoms observed in the brain. The theory has stimulated research and treatments emphasizing the importance of physiological state and behavioral regulation.

Stephen Porges is married to C. Sue Carter, a world leader in the role of neuropetides oxytocin and vasopressin in social cognition. They have two sons, Eric and Seth Porges.

Major accomplishments[edit]

  • First to quantify and use heart rate variability both as response and individual difference variable in psychophysiological research.
  • Pioneer in developmental psychophysiology using autonomic measures to investigate the psychological world of attention and autonomic conditioning in the newborn infant.
  • Introduced respiratory sinus arrhythmia as index of vagal function to the area of psychophysiology.
  • Developed a statistic to describe the covariation of two periodic signals varying across a band of frequencies (i.e., weighted coherence).
  • First to apply measures of respiratory sinus arrhythmia as an index of depth of anesthesia and as a measure of neural function in critical care medicine.
  • Demonstrated that early measures of respiratory sinus arrhythmia were related to clinical course in preterm and full term newborns.
  • Dynamic measure of periodic components of heart rate variability when the components are superimposed on a non-stationary baseline; method received a patent and is used in approximately 200 laboratories worldwide; 1985, awarded patent.
  • Polyvagal Theory based on the phylogeney of vertebrate autonomic nervous system, leading to discovery of three phylogenetically ordered neural circuits regulating autonomic nervous system. The newest circuit reflects unique face-heart connections which form a functional “social engagement system” involving an integrated regulation in the brainstem of the striated muscles of the face and head with a mammalian myelinated vagus that proposes older vagal circuitry involved in death feigning and shutting down behaviors that response to life-threat or panic.

Polyvagal Theory[edit]

Main article: Polyvagal Theory

Polyvagal introduces perspective relating to autonomic function of behavior including an appreciation of the autonomic nervous system as a system, the identification of neural circuits involved in the regulation of autonomic state and interpretation of autonomic reactivity as adaptive within the context of the phylogeny of the vertebrate autonomic nervous system,[1] explores 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 [2] and phylogenetic shifts providing insight into the adaptive function of both physiology and behavior. The theory emphasizes the phylogenetic emergence of two vagal systems: a potentially lethal ancient brain and cord circuits involved in defensive strategies of immobilization (e.g., fainting, freeze, fight) including dissociative states.[3][4] Polyvagal responses provided a new conceptualization of the autonomic nervous system that emphasize neurophysiological mechanisms and phylogenetic shifts in the neural regulation of the psychological responses from the cranial nerves to the spine, spinal cord and lower aspects of the mammalian brain.

In the advent of 2015 several updates to both the human and animal theories of polyvagal responses have been reported, and for the most part they have been by Stephen Porges, [3] however Frank M. Corrigan is a leader in the field, and he along with fellow authors of their 2011 text titled, Neurobiology and Treatment of Traumatic Dissociation Toward an Embodied Self have raised the bar by adding flight, feign polyvagal responses to what Porges has already presented. Both identifiers are important since they tag the dissociative disorders in such a way that gave the answers that were needed in order to move the field of psychology from a subjective art to a hard science using tools like PET and fMRI.[4]

Professional societies[edit]

  • Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research
  • American Psychological Association
  • Association for Psychological Science
  • International Society for Infant Studies
  • Society for Psychophysiological Research
  • Society for Research in Child Development
  • International Behavioral Neuroscience Society

Editorial duties[edit]

  • Psychophysiology (1983–1987)
  • Infant Behavior and Development (1977–1992)
  • Child Development
  • Developmental Psychobiology (1985–1991, 1995–1999)
  • Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (1993-1998)
  • Developmental Review (2000-2006)

Selected works[edit]

  • Porges SW. (1992). Vagal Tone: A physiological marker of stress vulnerability. Pediatrics 90:498-504.
  • Porges SW. (1995). Cardiac vagal tone: A physiological index of stress. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 19:225-233.
  • Porges SW. (1995). Orienting in a defensive world: Mammalian modifications of our evolutionary heritage. A Polyvagal Theory. Psychophysiology 32:301-318.
  • Porges SW. (1996). Physiological regulation in high-risk infants: A model for assessment and potential intervention. Development and Psychopathology 8:43-58.
  • Porges SW. (1998). Love: An emergent property of the mammalian autonomic nervous system. Psychoneuroendocrinology 23:837-861.
  • Porges SW. (2001). The Polyvagal Theory: Phylogenetic substrates of a social nervous system. International Journal of Psychophysiology 42:123-146.
  • Porges SW. (2003). The Polyvagal Theory: Phylogenetic contributions to social behavior. Physiology and Behavior 79:503-513.
  • Porges SW. (2003). Social engagement and attachment: A phylogenetic perspective. Roots of Mental Illness in Children, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1008:31-47.
  • Porges SW. (2004). Neuroception: A subconscious system for detecting threat and safety. Zero to Three: Bulletin of the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs 24:5,19-24.
  • Porges SW. (2005). The vagus: A mediator of behavioral and visceral features associated with autism. In ML Bauman and TL Kemper, eds. The Neurobiology of Autism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 65-78.
  • Porges SW. (2006). Asserting the role of biobehavioral sciences in translational research: The behavioral neurobiology revolution. Developmental Psychopathology 18:923-933.
  • Porges SW. (2007). The polyvagal perspective. Biological Psychology 74:116-143.
  • Porges SW. (2009). The polyvagal theory: New insights into adaptive reactions of the autonomic nervous system. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 76:S86-90.
  • Porges SW. (2009). Reciprocal influences between body and brain in the perception and expression of affect: A polyvagal perspective. In D Fosha, D Siegel, and M Solomon, eds. The Healing Power of Emotion: Affective Neuroscience, Development, and Clinical Practice. New York: Norton, 27-54.
  • Porges SW, Lewis GF. (2009). The polyvagal hypothesis: Common mechanisms mediating autonomic regulation, vocalizations, and listening. In SM Brudzynski, ed. Handbook of Mammalian Vocalizations: An Integrative Neuroscience Approach. Amsterdam: Academic Press, 255-264.
  • Porges SW, Furman SA. (2011). The early development of the autonomic nervous system provides a neural platform for social behavior: A polyvagal perspective. Infant and Child Development 20:106-118.
  • Porges SW, Carter CS. (2011). Neurobiology and evolution: Mechanisms, mediators, and adaptive consequences of caregiving. In SL Brown, RM Brown, and LA Penner, eds. Self Interest and Beyond: Toward a New Understanding of Human Caregiving. New York: Oxford University Press, 53-71.
  • Heilman KJ, Harden E., Zageris D, Berry-Kravis E, Porges SW (2011). Autonomic regulation in Fragile X Syndrome. Developmental Psychobiology 53:785-795.
  • Heilman KJ, Connolly SD, Padilla WO, Wrzosek MI, Graczyk PA, Porges SW (2012). Sluggish vagal brake reactivity to physical challenge in children with selective mutism. Development and Psychopathology, 24: 241-250.
  • Porges SW, Macellaio M, Stanfill SD, McCue K, Lewis GF, Harden ER, Handelman M, Denver J, Bazhenova OV, Heilman KJ. (2013). Respiratory sinus arrhythmia and auditory processing in autism: Modifiable deficits of an integrated social engagement system? International Journal of Psychophysiology 88: 261-270.
  • Heilman KJ, Harden ER, Weber KM, Cohen M, Porges SW. (2013). Atypical autonomic regulation, auditory processing, and affect recognition in women with HIV. Biological Psychology 94:143-151.
  • Williamson JB, Heilman KM, Porges EC, Lamb DG, Porges SW (2013). Possible mechanism for PTSD symptoms in patients with traumatic brain injury: central autonomic network disruption. Frontiers in Neuroengineering. doi: 10.3389/fneng
  • Carter CS, Porges SW. (2013). The biochemistry of love: an oxytocin hypothesis. EMBO Reports. 2013 Jan 3;14(1):12-6. doi: 10.1038/embor.2012.191. Epub 2012 Nov 27.


  • Porges SW, Coles MGH, eds. (1976). Psychophysiology. Stroudsburg, PA: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross.
  • Coles MGH, Donchin E, Porges SW, eds. (1986). Psychophysiology: Systems, Processes & Applications. New York: Guilford.
  • Carter CS, Ahnert L, Grossmann K, Hrdy SB, Lamb ME, Porges SW, Sachser N, eds. (2005) Attachment and Bonding: A New Synthesis. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Porges SW, Trejo BM, Martinez AC. (2005). La Teoria Polivagal. Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos.
  • Porges SW (2010). Die Polyvagal-Theorie: Neurophysiologische Grundlagen der Therapie. Paderborn, Germany: Junfermann Verlag.
  • Porges SW (2011). The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation. New York: WW Norton.

See also[edit]

Polyvagal theory

Dissociative disorders

Other disorders

General science


  1. ^ Porges, S.W. (2003). The Polyvagal Theory: phylogenetic contributions to social behavior. Physiology and Behavior, 79, 503-513.
  2. ^ Porges, S.W. (2007). The Polyvagal Perspective. Biological Psychology, 74, 116-143.
  3. ^ a b Porges, Stephen W. (2011). The polyvagal theory Neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication, and self-regulation (1st ed.). New York: W. W. Norton. p. 347. ISBN 0393707008. 
  4. ^ a b Corrigan, Frank E. M. (2014). Neurobiology and treatment of traumatic dissociation toward an embodied self. New York: Springer. p. 510. ISBN 0826106315. 

External links[edit]