Heart rate variability (HRV) is the time difference in between adjacent heart beats (Shaffer et al., 2014). In the past years, HRV has emerged as an indicator not only of autonomic balance, but it is also considered an indicator of internal self-regulation mechanisms related to behavior, emotions, and cognition (Reynard et al., 2011; Zahn et al., 2016). It has been stablished that reduced HRV is not only associated with physical impairment but with difficulties in emotional regulation and poor cognitive performance (Forte, Favieri & Cassagrande, 2019). For instance, low vagally-mediated HRV has been associated with biomarkers of glycemic, inflammation and lipid status in a proof-of- concept level study according to AHA guidelines (Jarczok et al., 2019). A recent metanalysis provides statistic data supporting the idea that HRV biofeedback (HRVB) improves emotional, and physical health and performance (Leher et al., 2020). HRVB is an standardized and relatively easy method (Leher et al., 2013) with rare side effects and is based on the in-phase relationship between heart rate and breathing; since HRVB stimulates baroreflex (BR) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and it increases parasympathetic activity (Mather & Thayer, 2018), it is believed that HRVB helps to cope with respiratory disorders such as asthma, helps control blood pressure, produce a well-being and relaxation sense as well as reduced anxiety and depression symptoms (Leher & Gevirtz, 2014; Leher et al; 2020). It has been described a complex network of central structures that may explain the link between physiological, emotion, and cognitive regulation processes (Thayer et al; 2009). Recent hemodynamics studies suggest that slow oscillations in heart rate potentially strengthen brain dynamics within this network, particularly in medial prefrontal cortex and cingulate cortex (Mather & Thayer, 2018). Although this finding, more studies are needed to explain in a higher-level the dynamic between heart-brain communication and why does HRVB helps to cope with disorders as those described above. For instance, more studies about HRVB alone, in comparison and in combination with other interventions or placebo are needed.
In this workshop HRV as an indicator of well-being will be discussed. An overview of main HRV sources and oscillators will be provided. The importance of resonance breathing will be highlighted. The neurovisceral integration model will be reviewed to explain heart-brain communication. There will be a very brief review of HRV instrumentation, as well as HRV evaluation methods, metrics, and standardized protocol.
Presented by: Miriam Sanchez-Gama & Dolores Gaxiola