The research team at the Institute of HeartMath (IHM) has shown that techniques which combine intentional heart focus with the generation of sustained positive feelings lead to a beneficial mode of physiological function they have termed psycho-physiological coherence. Correlates of psycho-physiological coherence include a sine wavelike pattern in the heart rhythms, increased heart-brain synchronization (alpha rhythms become more synchronized to the heart) and entrainment between the heart's rhythmic patterns, respiration, blood pressure rhythms, and other physiological systems. Although psycho-physiological coherence is a natural state that can occur spontaneously while people are feeling genuine positive emotions and during sleep, sustained periods are generally rare.
During states of psycho-physiological coherence, our inner systems function with a higher degree of synchronization, efficiency and harmony, which correlates with improved emotional stability, quality of emotional experience, health, and cognitive performance. HeartMath studies conducted across diverse populations have associated increased psycho-physiological coherence with reduced anxiety and depression, decreased physical symptoms of stress, enhanced immunity, reduced cortisol, and increased DHEA. IHM has collaborated with Stanford University and other institutions in studies, which have shown that heart centered techniques and psycho-physiological coherence facilitate the body's healing processes and improve physical health outcomes. For example, improvements in clinical status have been demonstrated in individuals with hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, asthma and AIDS.
The emWave® Coherence System is a unique heart rhythm coherence training system. It objectively monitors your heart rhythms and confirms when you are in the coherence mode. It helps you learn to self-generate coherence and track your progress. With practice you learn how to shift into coherence at will, even in difficult situations that previously would have drained your emotional vitality and buoyancy. You will readily see and experience changes in your heart rhythm patterns as you practice emotional regulation techniques. Your heart rhythms generally become less irregular, and sine wavelike as you send more heartfelt love and appreciation through your system
The emWave® Coherence System is very different from devices that simply measure heart rate. It is measuring the subtle beat-to-beat changes in your heart rate and showing you the rhythmic patterns over time. This is called heart rate variability (HRV) analysis. The emWave® Coherence System also analyzes your heart rhythm pattern for coherence, which other HRV monitors do not do. In addition to seeing your heart rhythm in real-time, your coherence or entrainment level is displayed as an accumulated score.
HeartMath research has shown that emotions are reflected in our heart rhythm patterns. These patterns are transmitted from the heart to the higher brain centers, and have profound effects on the way the brain processes information. Feelings of frustration and anxiety cause the heart rhythms to become disordered and irregular, inhibiting higher brain centers. Emotions of high quality, such as love and compassion produce more ordered and coherent heart rhythms, which reduce nervous system chaos and facilitate cortical function.
The analysis of HRV, or heart rhythms, is recognized as a powerful, noninvasive measure that reflects heart-brain interactions and autonomic nervous system dynamics, which are particularly sensitive to changes in emotional state. IHM research showing how emotions are reflected in the patterns of our heart rhythms has led to a new model of emotion. This model includes the heart, brain, nervous, and hormonal systems as fundamental components of a dynamic, interactive network that underlies emotional experience. IHM has provided scientific evidence that the heart is truly part of the emotional system, which most people intuitively have known all along. Indeed, most religious and spiritual traditions, regardless of cultural context, have emphasized the value of experiencing and expressing "qualities of the heart"--feelings such as love, care, gratitude, appreciation, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness--all of which can increase heart rhythm coherence.
Below is a sample list of articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. For more studies and published abstracts, see the "Science of the Heart" research overview:
R., Barrios-Choplin, B., Rozman, D., Atkinson, M. and Watkins, A. The
impact of a new emotional self-management program on stress, emotions,
heart rate variability, DHEA and cortisol. Integrative Physiological
and Behavioral Science. 1998; 33(2):151-170.
2. McCraty, R., Atkinson, M. and Tomasino, D. Science of the Heart. HeartMath Research Center; Institute of HeartMath, Boulder Creek, CA, 2001.
3. McCraty, R. HeartMath learning enhancement programs improve academic performance and behavior in school children. In: Proceedings of the Futurehealth Winter Brain Meeting. Miami, FL, 2001.
4. Barrios-Choplin, B., McCraty, R. and Cryer, B. An inner quality approach to reducing stress and improving physical and emotional wellbeing at work. Stress Medicine. 1997; 13:193-201.
5. McCraty, R., Tomasino, D., Atkinson, M. and Sundram, J. Impact of the HeartMath self-management skills program on physiological and psychological stress in police officers. Boulder Creek, CA: HeartMath Research Center, Institute of HeartMath, Publication No. 99-075.
6. Rein, G., Atkinson, M. and McCraty, R. The physiological and psychological effects of compassion and anger. Journal of Advancement in Medicine. 1995; 8(2):87-105.
7. Luskin, F., Reitz, M. and Newell, K. Pilot study of a group stress management training on elderly patients with congestive heart failure. Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation. 2000; 20(5):303.
8. Rozman, D., Whitaker, R., Beckman, T. and Jones, D. A pilot intervention program which reduces psychological symptomatology in individuals with human immunodeficiency virus. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 1996; 4:226-232.
9.Lehrer, P., Smetankin, A. and Potapova, T. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia biofeedback therapy for asthma: A report of 20 unmedicated pediatric cases. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. 2000; 25(3):193-200.
10. Tiller, W., McCraty, R. and Atkinson, M. Cardiac coherence: A new, noninvasive measure of autonomic nervous system order. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 1996; 2(1):52-65.
11.McCraty, R., Atkinson, M., Tiller, W. A., Rein, G. and Watkins, A. The effects of emotions on short term heart rate variability using power spectrum analysis. American Journal of Cardiology. 1995; 76:1089-1093