Electroencephalography (EEG) recordings performed in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners are affected by complex artifacts caused by heart function, often termed pulse artifacts (PAs). PAs can strongly compromise EEG data quality, and remain an open problem for EEG-fMRI. This study investigated the properties and mechanisms of PA variability across heartbeats, which has remained largely unaddressed to date, and evaluated its impact on PA correction approaches. Simultaneous EEG-fMRI was performed at 7T on healthy participants at rest or under visual stimulation, with concurrent recordings of breathing and cardiac activity. PA variability was found to contribute to EEG variance with more than 500 muV(2) at 7T, which extrapolates to 92 muV(2) at 3T. Clustering analyses revealed that PA variability not only is linked to variations in head position/orientation, as previously hypothesized, but also, and more importantly, to the respiratory cycle and to heart rate fluctuations. The latter mechanisms are associated to short-timescale variability (even across consecutive heartbeats), and their importance varied across EEG channels. In light of this PA variability, three PA correction techniques were compared: average artifact subtraction (AAS), optimal basis sets (OBS), and an approach based on K-means clustering. All methods allowed the recovery of visual evoked potentials from the EEG data; nonetheless, OBS and K-means tended to outperform AAS, likely due to the inability of the latter in modeling short-timescale variability. Altogether, these results offer novel insights into the dynamics and underlying mechanisms of the pulse artifact, with important consequences for its correction, relevant to most EEG-fMRI applications.