An Undergraduate Program with Heart: Thirty Years of Truman HRV Research

Author: Fred Shaffer1,2, Zachary M Meehan3
1 Center for Applied Psychophysiology, Truman State University, Kirksville, MO, USA.
2 Department of Psychology, Truman State University, 100 S. Franklin St., 2400G Barnett Hall, Kirksville, MO, 63501, USA.
3 University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA.
Conference/Journal: Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback
Date published: 2022 Jun 6
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1007/s10484-022-09543-5. , Word Count: 277

This article celebrates the contributors who inspired Truman's heart rate variability (HRV) research program. These seminal influences include Robert Fried, Richard Gevirtz, Paul Lehrer, Erik Peper, and Evgeny Vaschillo. The Truman State University Applied Psychophysiology Laboratory's HRV research has spanned five arcs: interventions to teach diaphragmatic breathing, adjunctive procedures to increase HRV, HRV biofeedback (HRVB) training studies, the concurrent validity of ultra-short-term HRV measurements, and rhythmical skeletal muscle tension strategies to increase HRV. We have conducted randomized controlled trials, primarily using within-subjects and mixed designs. These studies have produced eight findings that could benefit HRVB training. Effortful diaphragmatic breathing can lower end-tidal CO2 through larger tidal volumes. A 1:2 inhalation-to-exhalation (I/E) ratio does not increase HRV compared to a 1:1 I/E ratio. Chanting "om," listening to the Norman Cousins relaxation exercise, and singing a fundamental note are promising exercises to increase HRV. Heartfelt emotion activation does not increase HRV, enhance the effects of resonance frequency breathing, "immunize" HRV against a math stressor, or speed HRV recovery following a math stressor. Resonance frequency assessment achieved moderate (r = 0.73) 2-week test-reliability. Four weeks of HRVB training increased HRV and temperature, and decreased skin conductance level compared with temperature biofeedback training. Concurrent-validity assessment of ultra-short-term HRV measurements should utilize rigorous Pearson r and limits of agreement criteria. Finally, rhythmical skeletal muscle tension can increase HRV at rates of 1-, 3-, and 6-cpm. We describe representative studies, their findings, significance, and limitations in each arc. Finally, we summarize some of the most interesting unanswered questions to enable future investigators to build on our work.

Keywords: Biofeedback; Heart rate variability; Resonance frequency; Rhythmic skeletal muscle tension; Wearables.

PMID: 35668146 DOI: 10.1007/s10484-022-09543-5