Heart rate variability biofeedback increases baroreflex gain and peak expiratory flow

Author: Paul M Lehrer1, Evgeny Vaschillo, Bronya Vaschillo, Shou-En Lu, Dwain L Eckberg, Robert Edelberg, Weichung Joe Shih, Yong Lin, Tom A Kuusela, Kari U O Tahvanainen, Robert M Hamer
1 Department of Psychiatry Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA. lehrer@umdnj.edu
Conference/Journal: Psychosom Med
Date published: Sep-Oct 2003
Other: Volume ID: 65 , Issue ID: 5 , Pages: 796-805 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1097/01.psy.0000089200.81962.19. , Word Count: 150

We evaluated heart rate variability biofeedback as a method for increasing vagal baroreflex gain and improving pulmonary function among 54 healthy adults.

We compared 10 sessions of biofeedback training with an uninstructed control. Cognitive and physiological effects were measured in four of the sessions.

We found acute increases in low-frequency and total spectrum heart rate variability, and in vagal baroreflex gain, correlated with slow breathing during biofeedback periods. Increased baseline baroreflex gain also occurred across sessions in the biofeedback group, independent of respiratory changes, and peak expiratory flow increased in this group, independently of cardiovascular changes. Biofeedback was accompanied by fewer adverse relaxation side effects than the control condition.

Heart rate variability biofeedback had strong long-term influences on resting baroreflex gain and pulmonary function. It should be examined as a method for treating cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. Also, this study demonstrates neuroplasticity of the baroreflex.

PMID: 14508023 DOI: 10.1097/01.psy.0000089200.81962.19