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      Heart rate variability biofeedback: how and why does it work?


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          In recent years there has been substantial support for heart rate variability biofeedback (HRVB) as a treatment for a variety of disorders and for performance enhancement ( Gevirtz, 2013). Since conditions as widely varied as asthma and depression seem to respond to this form of cardiorespiratory feedback training, the issue of possible mechanisms becomes more salient. The most supported possible mechanism is the strengthening of homeostasis in the baroreceptor ( Vaschillo et al., 2002; Lehrer et al., 2003). Recently, the effect on the vagal afferent pathway to the frontal cortical areas has been proposed. In this article, we review these and other possible mechanisms that might explain the positive effects of HRVB.

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          A quantitative systematic review of normal values for short-term heart rate variability in healthy adults.

          Heart rate variability (HRV) is a known risk factor for mortality in both healthy and patient populations. There are currently no normative data for short-term measures of HRV. A thorough review of short-term HRV data published since 1996 was therefore performed. Data from studies published after the 1996 Task Force report (i.e., between January 1997 and September 2008) and reporting short-term measures of HRV obtained in normally healthy individuals were collated and factors underlying discrepant values were identified. Forty-four studies met the pre-set inclusion criteria involving 21,438 participants. Values for short-term HRV measures from the literature were lower than Task Force norms. A degree of homogeneity for common measures of HRV in healthy adults was shown across studies. A number of studies demonstrate large interindividual variations (up to 260,000%), particularly for spectral measures. A number of methodological discrepancies underlined disparate values. These include a systematic failure within the literature (a) to recognize the importance of RR data recognition/editing procedures and (b) to question disparate HRV values observed in normally healthy individuals. A need for large-scale population studies and a review of the Task Force recommendations for short-term HRV that covers the full-age spectrum were identified. Data presented should be used to quantify reference ranges for short-term measures of HRV in healthy adult populations but should be undertaken with reference to methodological factors underlying disparate values. Recommendations for the measurement of HRV require updating to include current technologies. ©2010, The Authors. Journal compilation ©2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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            Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part I-neurophysiologic model.

            Mind-body interventions are beneficial in stress-related mental and physical disorders. Current research is finding associations between emotional disorders and vagal tone as indicated by heart rate variability. A neurophysiologic model of yogic breathing proposes to integrate research on yoga with polyvagal theory, vagal stimulation, hyperventilation, and clinical observations. Yogic breathing is a unique method for balancing the autonomic nervous system and influencing psychologic and stress-related disorders. Many studies demonstrate effects of yogic breathing on brain function and physiologic parameters, but the mechanisms have not been clarified. Sudarshan Kriya yoga (SKY), a sequence of specific breathing techniques (ujjayi, bhastrika, and Sudarshan Kriya) can alleviate anxiety, depression, everyday stress, post-traumatic stress, and stress-related medical illnesses. Mechanisms contributing to a state of calm alertness include increased parasympathetic drive, calming of stress response systems, neuroendocrine release of hormones, and thalamic generators. This model has heuristic value, research implications, and clinical applications.
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              Important influence of respiration on human R-R interval power spectra is largely ignored.

              Frequency-domain analyses of R-R intervals are used widely to estimate levels of autonomic neural traffic to the human heart. Because respiration modulates autonomic activity, we determined for nine healthy subjects the influence of breathing frequency and tidal volume on R-R interval power spectra (fast-Fourier transform method). We also surveyed published literature to determine current practices in this burgeoning field of scientific inquiry. Supine subjects breathed at rates of 6, 7.5, 10, 15, 17.1, 20, and 24 breaths/min and with nominal tidal volumes of 1,000 and 1,500 ml. R-R interval power at respiratory and low (0.06-0.14 Hz) frequencies declined significantly as breathing frequency increased. R-R interval power at respiratory frequencies was significantly greater at a tidal volume of 1,500 than 1,000 ml. Neither breathing frequency nor tidal volume influenced average R-R intervals significantly. Our review of studies reporting human R-R interval power spectra showed that 51% of the studies controlled respiratory rate, 11% controlled tidal volume, and 11% controlled both respiratory rate and tidal volume. The major implications of our analyses are that breathing parameters strongly influence low-frequency as well as respiratory frequency R-R interval power spectra and that this influence is largely ignored in published research.

                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                15 June 2014
                21 July 2014
                : 5
                : 756
                [1] 1Department of Psychiatry, Rutgers – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Piscataway, NJ, USA
                [2] 2California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant University San Diego, CA, USA
                Author notes

                Edited by: J. P. Ginsberg, Dorn VA Medical Center, USA

                Reviewed by: Robert P. Nolan, University Health Network – University of Toronto, Canada; Robert Lake Conder, Carolina Neuropsychological Service, Inc., USA

                *Correspondence: Paul M. Lehrer, Department of Psychiatry, Rutgers – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, 671 Hoes Lane, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA e-mail: lehrer@ 123456rwjms.rutgers.edu

                This article was submitted to Psychology for Clinical Settings, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

                Copyright © 2014 Lehrer and Gevirtz.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 05 June 2014
                : 27 June 2014
                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 113, Pages: 9, Words: 0
                Hypothesis and Theory Article

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                heart rate variability,biofeedback,resonance,baroreflex,homeostasis


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