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  1. Heart rate has natural fluctuations that are typically ascribed to autonomic function. Recent evidence suggests that conscious processing can affect the timing of the heartbeat. We hypothesized that heart rate is modulated by conscious processing and therefore dependent on attentional focus. To test this, we leverage the observation that neural processes can be synchronized between subjects by presenting an identical narrative stimulus. As predicted, we find significant inter-subject correlation of the heartbeat (ISC-HR) when subjects are presented with an auditory or audiovisual narrative. Consistent with the conscious processing hypothesis, we find that ISC-HR is reduced when subjects are distracted from the narrative, and that higher heart rate synchronization predicts better recall of the narrative. Finally, patients with disorders of consciousness who are listening to a story have lower ISC-HR, as compared to healthy individuals, and that individual ISC-HR might predict a patients’ prognosis.. We conclude that heart rate fluctuations are partially driven by conscious processing, depend on attentional state, and may represent a simple metric to assess conscious state in unresponsive patients.