Evaluation of Heart Rate Variability and Application of Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback: Toward Further Research on Slow-Paced Abdominal Breathing in Zen Meditation

Author: Masahito Sakakibara1
1 Department of Psychology, Aichi Gakuin University, 12 Araike Iwasaki-cho, Nisshin-shi, 470-0195, Japan. msakaki@md.ccnw.ne.jp.
Conference/Journal: Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback
Date published: 2022 May 17
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1007/s10484-022-09546-2. , Word Count: 250

This review summarizes my own involvement in heart rate variability (HRV) and HRV biofeedback studies, as a tribute to the late Dr. Evgeny Vaschillo. I first review psychophysiological studies on behavioral stress and relaxation performed in my laboratory using an assessment of cardiac parasympathetic activity. Although magnitude of high-frequency (HF) component of HRV corresponding respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) is widely used as an index of cardiac parasympathetic function, a respiratory confound during stress or relaxation may have interfered with the proper assessment of the HF HRV. An enhanced method under frequency-controlled respiration at 0.25 Hz provided a reliable assessment of cardiac parasympathetic activity. I then review findings from HRV biofeedback research in my laboratory. Based on the hypothesis that RSA measured as an HF component of HRV represents cardiorespiratory resting function, it was demonstrated that HRV biofeedback before sleep enhanced the magnitude of HF HRV during sleep, a cardiorespiratory resting function. Moreover, by focusing on the spectral peak of the low-frequency (LF) component of HRV, paced breathing at the LF-peak frequency was shown to increase baroreflex sensitivity. Finally, I describe the potential of slow-paced abdominal breathing (i.e., Tanden breathing) performed in Zen meditation. The concept of Tanden breathing as described in a regimen from early modern Japan is introduced, and recent research findings on slow-paced abdominal breathing are summarized. Future research directions of slow-paced abdominal breathing are also discussed.

Keywords: Cardiac autonomic function; Heart rate variability; Heart rate variability biofeedback; Paced breathing; Zen meditation.

PMID: 35579767 DOI: 10.1007/s10484-022-09546-2