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Heart-Brain Neurodynamics: The Making of Emotion

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  • HearthMath Institute

Abstract

As pervasive and vital as they are in human experience, emotions have long remained an enigma to science. This monograph explores recent scientifi c advances that clarify central controversies in the study of emotion, including the relationship between intellect and emotion, and the historical debate on the source of emotional experience. Particular attention is given to the intriguing body of research illuminating the critical role of ascending input from the body to the brain in the generation and perception of emotions. This discussion culminates in the presentation of a new, systems-oriented model of emotion in which the brain functions as a complex pattern-matching system, continually processing input from both the external and internal environments. From this perspective it is shown that the heart is a key component of the emotional system, thus providing a physiological basis for the long-acknowledged link between the heart and our emotional life.
Heart-Brain Neurodynamics
The Making of Emotions
Rollin McCraty, Ph.D.
HeartMath Research Center
Institute of HeartMath
1
Copyright © 2003 Institute of HeartMath
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HeartMath Research Center, Institute of HeartMath, Publication No. 03-015. Boulder Creek, CA,
2003.
Cover design by Sandy Royall
1
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
Heart–BrainNeurodynamics:TheMakingofEmotions
RollinMcCraty
Emotions are...the function where mind and body
most closely and mysteriously interact.
—Ronald de Sousa
, The Rationality of Emotion
As pervasive and vital as they are in human experience, emotions have long remained
an enigma to science. This monograph explores recent scienti c advances that clarify
central controversies in the study of emotion, including the relationship between in-
tellect and emotion, and the historical debate on the source of emotional experience.
Particular attention is given to the intriguing body of research illuminating the critical
role of ascending input from the body to the brain in the generation and perception of
emotions. This discussion culminates in the presentation of a new, systems-oriented
model of emotion in which the brain functions as a complex pattern-matching sys-
tem, continually processing input from both the external and internal environments.
From this perspective it is shown that the heart is a key component of the emotional
system, thus providing a physiological basis for the long-acknowledged link between
the heart and our emotional life.
TheMentalandEmotionalSystems
The relationship between mind and emotions
has been deliberated at length throughout history,
with most schools of thought drawing a boundary be-
tween them. Perception, appraisal, arousal, attention,
memory, thinking, reasoning, and problem solving
are often grouped together under the broader heading
of cognition, or the mental system. The emotional
system, on the other hand, encompasses feelings,
which can span a range of intensity. The importance
of gaining a deeper understanding of the emotional
system has become increasingly recognized as an
important scienti c undertaking, as it has become
clear that emotions underlie the majority of the stress
we experience, in uence our decisions, provide the
motivation for our actions, and create the textures
that determine our quality of life. In recent years,
the concept of “emotional intelligence” has emerged,
claiming that emotional maturity is as important as
are mental abilities in both personal and professional
spheres, and that emotional competencies often out-
weigh the cognitive in determining success.
The tendency to view emotions as operating
separately and apart from rational or intellectual
capacities dates back to the times of the ancient
Greeks. Thus, historically, thinking and feeling––or
intellect and emotion––have often been portrayed
HeartMath Research Center, Institute of HeartMath,
Publication No. 03-015. Boulder Creek, CA, 2003.
Addre ss for cor re spondence : Rollin McC ra ty, Ph.D .,
HeartMath Research Center, Institute of HeartMath,
14700 West Park Avenue, Boulder Creek, CA 95006.
Phone: 831.338.8500, Fax: 831.338.1182, Email:
info@heartmath.org. Institute of HeartMath web site:
www.heartmath.org <http://www.heartmath.org/> .
2
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
as opposing forces engaged in an incessant battle for
control over the human psyche. Plato maintained
that strong emotions made it impossible for him to
think and described emotions as wild horses that
had to be reined in by the intellect, while Christian
theology has traditionally regarded many emotions
as sins and temptations to be overcome by reason
and willpower. Traditionally, the intellect was held
in high regard, while emotions were considered “ir-
rational” and received little recognition. However,
a modern-day examination of emotions presents us
with an entirely new perspective, providing a more
comprehensive understanding of the emotional
system and illuminating the critical roles that emo-
tions play in human experience, performance, and
rationality.
Most contemporary researchers agree that
cognition and emotion are distinct functions medi-
ated by separate but interconnecting neural systems.
A number of research centers, rather than studying
these systems in isolation, are attempting to under-
stand the essential dynamic interactions that occur
between them. From a neuroscience perspective,
several intriguing forms of interaction have been
discovered that link the cognitive centers with the
emotional processing areas of the brain. For example,
bidirectional neural connections that exist between
the frontal cortex and the amygdala permit emo-
tion-related input from the amygdala to modulate
cortical activity and cognitive input from the cortex
to modulate the amygdala’s emotional information
processing.
2-4
Beyond these hard-wired neural connections,
biochemical bridges also link key components of
the mental and emotional systems. The cortex, for
instance, has been found to contain a high density
of receptors for many neuropeptides that are also
heavily concentrated in the brain’s subcortical ar-
eas, which are associated with emotional processing.
5
Evidence suggests, moreover, that communication
channels linking the mental and emotional systems
are essential for the expression of our full range of
mental capacities.
6
In his book,
Descartes’ Error
, neurologist
Antonio Damasio presents evidence that patients
with brain damage in the frontal lobes, a key site of
integration of the cognitive and emotional systems
within the brain, can no longer function effectively
in the day-to-day world, even though their intellec-
tual abilities are perfectly intact. Damasio presents
a powerful argument supporting the seemingly coun-
terintuitive position that input from the emotional
system to our thought centers not only facilitates, but
is actually indispensable to, the process of rational
decision-making.
7
Emotions in uence nearly every type of cogni-
tive activity in subtle yet crucial ways. Emotions can
direct attention. This phenomenon is known as the
“mood-congruity effect.”
8
Thus, people in a given
emotional state pay more attention to stimuli that are
emotionally congruent with their current emotional
state. Emotions also in uence memory and learn-
ing, an effect known in neuroscience as “emotion
state-dependent memory.”
9
This is why information
learned or obtained in a given emotional state may
be more easily retrieved if the individual returns to
an emotional state similar to the one that prevailed
during the original learning. Emotions can also af-
fect judgment, as well as the cognitive processing
style employed during problem solving. This effect
is readily demonstrable in the laboratory, as well as
in everyday life.
10
While two-way communication between the
cognitive and emotional systems is hard-wired into
the brain, the actual number of neural connections
going from the emotional processing areas to the
cognitive centers is greater than the number going
the other way.
4
This goes some way to explain the
powerful in uence of emotions on thought processes.
It also provides insight into how emotional experi-
ence, in contrast to thought alone, can often be a
powerful motivator of future attitudes and behavior,
in uencing moment-to-moment actions as well as
both short-term and long-term performance. While
emotions can easily dispel nonemotional events from
conscious awareness, nonemotional forms of mental
activity, such as thoughts, do not so easily displace
emotions from the mental landscape. Likewise, expe-
rience reminds us that the most pervasive thoughts,
least easily dismissed, are typically those fueled by
the greatest intensity of emotion.
3
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
Interestingly, the seventeenth century philoso-
pher René Descartes noted this same point over three
hundred years ago. In commenting on the function
of human emotion in his
Treatise on the Passions
of the Soul
, Descartes wrote:
The utility of all passions consists alone in their fortifying and
perpetuatinginthesoulthoughts,whichitisgooditshouldpreserve,
andwhichwithoutthatmighteasilybeeffacedfromit.Andagain,all
theharmwhichtheycancauseconsistsinthefactthattheyfortifyand
conservethesethoughtsmorethannecessary,orthattheyfortifyand
conserveothersonwhichitisnotgoodtodwell.
11
(art.74)
Descartes’ views on emotions were clearly
more sophisticated than the simplistic notion that
emotions are antagonists to rational thought. Des-
cartes considered emotions a double-sided coin. They
give substance and sustenance to what otherwise may
have been ephemeral thoughts. As a result, they can
work both for and against us. Descartes was really
highlighting the contrast between the potential of
effectively managed emotions and the harm caused
by unmanaged emotions. Whereas effectively man-
aged emotions work in synchrony with the mind to
facilitate its activity, unmanaged emotions can be
the source of mental chaos.
MentalAndEmotionalCoherence
To further refine Descartes’ premise and
express it within the context of the concepts dis-
cussed in this paper, we can say that when there
is
coherence
within and between the mental and
emotional systems, they interact constructively to
expand awareness and permit optimal psychological
and physiological functioning. Conversely, when the
mental and emotional systems are out-of-phase, they
lack synchronization and thus interact in a con ict-
ing manner, thereby compromising performance. For
example, people commonly tell themselves to “think
positive” about a challenging task, yet emotionally
they may still dread doing it. When our emotions are
not aligned with getting the task accomplished we
lack motivation and enthusiasm, which limits our
access to creativity and insight, and thus impedes our
overall performance. In other words, as many of us
have likely experienced, positive thoughts or af rma-
tions are often only superimposed on an underlying
internal environment of emotional turmoil. In such
cases, “positive thinking” is rarely able to produce
an enduring shift in the negative feelings.
To better understand an experience such as
this, it is important to realize that many common
emotion regulation strategies operate on the assump-
tion that all emotions follow thought, and thus by
changing one’s thoughts, one should be able to gain
control over one’s emotions. However, in the last
decade, research in neuroscience has made it quite
clear that emotional processes operate at a much
higher speed than thoughts, and frequently bypass
the mind’s linear reasoning process entirely.
4
In other
words, emotions do not always follow thought; in
many cases, in fact, emotions occur independently
of the cognitive system and can signi cantly bias or
color the cognitive process and its output or deci-
sion.
3,4
Since the mind and emotions affect a wide range
of abilities and responses, mental and emotional co-
herence are of the utmost importance. Vision, listen-
ing ability, reaction times, mental clarity, problem
solving, creativity, and performance in a wide range
of tasks are all in uenced by the degree of coherence
of these two systems at any given moment. Because
emotions exert such a powerful in uence on cogni-
tive processes, emotional incoherence often leads to
mental incoherence. Furthermore, emotional inco-
herence is often the root cause of “mental” problems
and stress. Mental health is maintained by emotional
hygiene––emotional self-management––and mental
problems, to a large extent, re ect a breakdown of
emotional order or stability.
On the other hand, increasing stability in the
emotional system can often bring the mind into a
greater sense of peace and clarity as well. When the
mental and emotional systems are in sync, we have
greater access to our full range of potential and a
greater ability to manifest our visions and goals,
as the power of emotion is aligned with the mind’s
capacities. Even more intriguing, we can gain more
conscious control over this process than previ-
4
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
ously believed through the application of tools and
techniques designed to increase emotional stability.
Empirical research on the outcomes of such tech-
niques indicates that increased mental and emotional
coherence, in turn, can lead to a higher degree of
physiological coherence, manifested as increased
ef ciency and synchronization in the functioning of
physiological systems.
12
The positive emotion-focused coherence-build-
ing techniques developed by the Institute of Heart-
Math engage the heart as a point of entry into the psy-
chophysiological networks that underlie emotional
experience.
12-14
One of the research focuses of our
laboratory over the last decade has been the study of
the patterns and rhythms generated in various physi-
ological systems during the experience of different
emotions. Through experimenting with numerous
physiological measures, we have found that heart rate
variability (heart rhythm) patterns are consistently
the most dynamic and re ective of changes in one’s
emotional state. We have demonstrated that positive
and negative emotions can be readily distinguished by
distinct changes in heart rhythm patterns. Sustained
positive emotions are associated with a noticeably
coherent (
i.e.
, ordered, smooth, and sine wave-like)
heart rhythm pattern, whereas negative emotions
are characterized by a jagged, erratic pattern in the
heart’s rhythms.
15
Moreover, further exploration led
us to discover that unhealthy individuals could be
greatly facilitated towards improved physical and
emotional health through learning how to generate
the coherent heart rhythm patterns displayed by
healthy, high-functioning individuals.
An important implication of this work, in rela-
tion to the ideas developed in this monograph, is that
the rhythmic patterns generated by the heart are not
only
re ective
of emotions, but actually appear to
play a key role in
in uencing
moment-to-moment
emotional perception and experience. In short,
through its extensive interactions with the brain and
body, the heart emerges as a critical component of
the emotional system. Before developing this con-
cept further, we place it in perspective by offering a
brief historical review of the evolution of scienti c
thinking about emotions, leading up to a summary of
current scienti c understandings in this  eld.
TheSourceofEmotionalExperience:AnEvolving
Model
Current scienti c knowledge regarding the
physiology of emotions has its roots in Galenic medi-
cine. Galen’s in uence on scienti c thinking persisted
well into the 1800s, with the notion that thoughts
(“spirits”) circulate in the ventricles of the brain, and
emotions circulate in the vascular system. Medical
thinking at that time maintained that temperament
was determined by four “humors” or secretions:
sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic, and melancholic.
Modern biomedical research has supplemented this
simplistic model with a rich array of endocrine and
exocrine hormones, which are invoked in any seri-
ous biological discussion of emotion. According to
neuropsychologist Karl Pribram, who oversaw the
brain research center at Stanford University for 30
years, the retreat from this perspective has been
slow and guarded for two reasons: Old theories do
not die easily, and there is an aspect of truth to this
view.
16
The “spirits” circulating in the ventricles
have turned out to be neural electrical activity, and
the “humors”  owing through the vascular system,
endocrine secretions.
An arguably de ning characteristic of emo-
tions is that they involve greater activation of the
autonomic nervous system and more conspicuous
participation of the body than do mental states. This
intimate relationship between emotions and physiol-
ogy has been expressed for centuries in song, poetry,
and prose. Even ordinary conversation pertaining
to emotional experiences contains numerous physi-
ological allusions. There is no question that emo-
tions are accompanied by a vast array of physiological
changes. This is why people so often tend to describe
emotional experiences in physiological terms, such
as “My heart was pounding,” “My throat went dry,”
“My blood ran cold,” “My skin crawled,” “It was
gut-wrenching,” and “It took my breath away.” That
these  gures of speech have become so engrained in
everyday language attests to our experience of emo-
tional states being intricately intertwined with, if not
inseparable from, their bodily manifestations.
But is what is the ultimate
source
of emo-
tions––the body or the brain? Do emotions originate
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© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
as bodily sensations that are then perceived by the
brain, or do they originate in the brain as a product
of cognitive processes and only then trickle down
into the body? This fundamental controversy has
formed the core of a lively debate that has raged for
over a century, yielding a fascinating and illuminating
progression of ideas.
TheJames-CannonDebate
In 1884, the debate over the source of emo-
tional experience formally began with a proposal
by psychologist-philosopher William James in his
seminal article entitled “What is an Emotion?”
17
James believed that emotional experience is not
only accompanied by, but actually
arises from
or-
arises from or-arises from
ganic changes that occur in the body in response
to an arousing stimulus. These physiological signals
(
e.g.
, racing heart, tight stomach, sweaty palms, tense
muscles, and so on) are subsequently fed back to the
brain, and only
then
felt consciously as a true emo-
tion. James proposed that we can sense what is going
on inside our body much the same as we can sense
what is going on in the outside world. The aware-
ness of the immediate sensory and motor reverbera-
tions that occur in response to a perception (
e.g
.,
the pounding heart, the clenched jaw, etc.) is what
makes that perception emotional. Thus, the feeling
aspect of emotion is dictated by the physiology and
not vice-versa. According to James:
Our natural wayof thinking about…emotions is that the mental
perception of some fact excites the mental affection called the
emotion,and that this latter state ofmind gives rise tot
hebodily
expression.Mythesisonthecontraryisthatthebodilychangesfollow
directlythe
PERCEPTION
oftheexcitingfact,andthatourfeelingof
thesamechangesastheyoccuristheemotion
.
17
(pp.189-190)
James maintained that the precise pattern of
sensory feedback relayed from the body to the brain
gives each emotion its unique quality. Thus, anger
feels different from sadness or love because it has
a characteristic physiological pattern or signature.
James maintained that physiological responses con-
tributing to emotion were “almost in nitely numer-
ous and subtle,”
17
(p. 191) re ecting the nuances of
physiology and its emotional counterpart.
In fairness to James, it should be noted that
his original premise––that the sensation of bodily
changes is a
necessary condition
of emotion––was
necessary condition of emotion––was necessary condition
subsequently oversimpli ed by many of his contem-
poraries, as well as by many modern authors.
18
The
oversimpli cation of James’ views suggested that
emotions are
nothing but
the sensation of bodily
nothing but the sensation of bodily nothing but
changes. In fact, when using the term “perception”
in his writings, James did acknowledge the role of
interpretation or cognitive appraisal of the exciting
stimulus in the initiation of emotional experience.
However, he argued that the emotional “feeling” was
not a primary feeling directly aroused by appraisal,
but rather a secondary feeling indirectly aroused by
the organic changes that occurred following the ap-
praisal.
James’ perspective was called into question in
the 1920s by the prominent experimental physiolo-
gist Walter Cannon.
19
Cannon believed that the es-
sential mechanisms of emotion occurred within the
brain alone and that bodily responses and afferent
input to the brain were not needed to fully experience
emotions. He argued, in brief, that bodily feedback,
especially from the viscera, was both too slow and
not suf ciently differentiated to explain the dynamic
range and variety of emotional expression. Though
Cannon felt that bodily sensations could not account
for differences between emotions, he believed that
they nevertheless played an important role in giving
emotions their characteristic sense of intensity and
urgency.
To support his views, Cannon demonstrated
that arti cially induced visceral responses alone do
not produce emotions and that animals still show
“emotional behavior” when feedback from the vis-
cera is surgically eliminated. Of course, here Cannon
was forced to rely solely on behavioral evidence to de-
ne the parameters of emotion in his animal subjects.
In place of the visceral theory, Cannon proposed a
brain (thalamic) theory of emotions. He suggested
that emotional expression results from the operation
of hypothalamic structures, while emotional feeling
results from stimulation of the dorsal thalamus.
This theory was based on the observation that emo-
tion-like behavior could be elicited in decorticated
and decerebrated animals, but not when thalamic
structures were ablated as well. Further, a variety of
expressive and bodily responses were obtained when
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© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
the thalamus was electrically stimulated.
20
In Cannon’s view, the thalamus and hypo-
thalamus discharged simultaneously to the body to
produce physiological responses and to the cortex
to produce emotional experiences. In measuring the
amount of time it took for electrical stimulation of
the hypothalamus to produce visceral changes, Can-
non concluded that these bodily responses were too
slow to be the cause of emotions. He saw them rather
as the effect, since his measurements suggested that
we would already be feeling the emotion by the time
these responses occur.
Much of Cannon’s experimental research cen-
tered on autonomic nervous system (ANS) responses
that occur in states of hunger or intense emotion.
21
His research led him to propose the concept of an
emergency reaction––the “ ght-or- ight response”—
to describe a speci c physiological response that ac-
companies any state in which physical energy must
be expended. The sympathetic division of the ANS,
which he believed to act in a uniform way regard-
less of how or why it was activated, mediated this
response. Cannon held that the visceral changes ac-
companying emotion were part of this nonspeci c
arousal, and thus that all emotions had the same
ANS signature.
Cannon’s arguments won over the weight of
scienti c opinion of the day, and his view conse-
quently spawned a search for emotional mechanisms
in the brain. Others such as Lindsley and Papez built
upon Cannon’s theory by mapping out additional sub-
cortical and limbic structures and communication
pathways involved in the brain’s emotion-regulating
networks.
22,23
Experimental evidence demonstrated
the existence in the hypothalamic region of an en-
ergy-conserving or
trophotropic
process working
trophotropic process working trophotropic
primarily through the parasympathetic branch of
the ANS, and a mobilizing or
ergotrophic
system
ergotrophic system ergotrophic
working through the sympathetic branch.
24
It was
assumed that the hypothalamus and dorsal thala-
mus were at the apex of the hierarchy of control of
visceral and autonomic functions and were the key
to understanding emotional processes.
Neuropsychologist Karl Lashley was the rst
to criticize this assumption. He pointed out several
aws in the theory by using lesion studies showing
that emotional disturbances (on which the Cannon
theory was based) could also be observed following
lesions elsewhere, such as in the afferent paths in
the nervous system or between the forebrain and
thalamic structures.
25
He also noted that neither the
James nor Cannon theories could account for the
dissociation between outward emotional expression
and inner feelings, which is a common clinical and
experimental observation.
TheLimbicTheory
An important breakthrough came in 1937
when James Papez, a professor of neuroanatomy
at Cornell University, described a circuit between
centers in the brain and suggested that it might
constitute the neural substrate for emotion, thus
introducing the idea of a circuit or system rather
than a single center. He suggested that blockage
of information ow at any point along this circuit
would cause disorders of emotions. Now known as
the
Papez circuit
, this model described the ow of
information from the hippocampal formation to the
thalamus, then to the cingulate gyrus, and back again
to the hippocampal formation.
This was later elaborated on by Paul MacLean,
chief of the laboratory for brain evolution and be-
havior at the National Institute of Mental Health. In
the 1950s, MacLean introduced the concept of the
“limbic system” to denote the interacting regions
of the brain involved in emotional processing.
26,27
In
addition to the areas of the Papez circuit, MacLean
included regions such as the amygdala, septum, and
prefrontal cortex in the limbic system. Later, he also
originated the
triune brain
model, which delineated
three functional brain systems that he believed de-
veloped successively in response to evolutionary
needs.
28,29
Although MacLean’s theory has had little
impact on neurobiology, it has become popular in
the lay press and with psychotherapists. However, it
should be noted that extensive work in comparative
neurobiology unequivocally contradicts the evolu-
tionary aspects of his theory.
30
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© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
MacLean believed that emotional experience
could be most accurately described as a response to
the
composite of
stimuli the brain receives from the
external environment, as a result of ongoing percep-
tions of the outside world,
and
internal sensations or
feedback transmitted to the brain from bodily organs
and systems. The limbic system came to be viewed as
the receiving station or site for the association and
correlation of these varied stimuli, being strategi-
cally located to correlate every form of
internal
and
external
perception. MacLean also emphasized the
importance of memory and provided data showing
that the limbic cortex exceeds the neocortex in the
turnover of protein, a measure of the demand for
new RNA in memory formation.
31
Here at last was the seat of emotion––the
visceral brain. Karl Pribram summed it up with the
following:
Thepersuasive power of this suggestion is great: Galen, James…,
[and]Cannon…areallsaved;visceral[bodily]processesarethebasis
ofemotion; and an identiable part ofthebrainis responsible for
emotionalcontrolandexperiencebecauseofitsselectiverelations
withviscera…Thepathfrom the“emotionsinthevascularsystem”
to“emotionsintheforebrain”hadnallybeencompleted,andeach
stepalongthewayfreedusfrompreconceptions popularlycurrent
whenthestepwastaken.
16
(p.16)
Despite its popularity, there are problems with
the limbic theory of emotions and it falls heir to the
same criticisms leveled against Cannon. The idea of
a speci c center (
i.e.
, the thalamus) as a privileged
site for emotional experience did not hold up; and
the same problem arises with relations between
the limbic structures and bodily input, and for that
matter, the limbic system itself and emotions. For
example, it was found that emotional changes can be
observed to accompany lesions in parts of the brain
other than limbic areas. Further, ablation and stimu-
lation of limbic structures in uence problem solving
and other cognitive behaviors in selective ways that
cannot be attributed to changes in emotion. In fact,
obvious and speci c “memory” defects follow limbic
lesions, while changes in emotions cannot be found.
20
Obviously, the Papez-MacLean theory, like its prede-
cessors, presented only part of the picture.
With the development of newer techniques
for electrical brain stimulation, Pribram and others
showed that the so-called “limbic” brain regions were
under the surveillance and control of the neocortex.
32
Brain structures such as the hippocampus, amygdala,
cingulate cortex, septum, thalamus, hypothalamus,
and prefrontal cortex came to be viewed as inter-
preting experience in terms of feelings rather than
“intellectualized” representations. It now appears
that the whole brain as well as the ascending input
from the body, both neurological and hormonal, are
necessary in the full experience of emotion.
Memory
An important aspect of emotional experience is
memory. The  rst associations of memory with spe-
ci c parts of the limbic system appear to have been
made in 1900 by the Russian neurologist-anatomist
Vladimir Mikhailovich Bekhterev when he observed
memory de cits in a patient with hippocampal de-
generation.
20
The story of the search for memory is
far beyond the scope of this monograph; however;
the work of Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb has
special relevance to this paper’s theme. In 1949,
Hebb predicted a form of synaptic plasticity based
on temporal activity, which was veri ed decades later
with the discovery of long-term potentiation.
33
Hebb
believed that synaptic connections were the material
basis of mental associations; however he went well
beyond the naïve connectionism theories of that time
period in two important respects. First, he argued
that an association could not be localized to a single
synapse. Instead, neurons were grouped in “cell as-
semblies,” and an association was distributed over
their synaptic connections. Secondly, Hebb rejected
the concept that input-response behaviors could be
explained by simple re ex arcs connecting sensory
neurons to motor or output neurons. He believed
that sensory stimulation could initiate patterns of
neural activity that were maintained by circulation
in synaptic feedback loops. This reverberatory activ-
ity made it possible for a response to follow a delay
that was characteristic of thought. In essence, Hebb
argued for a dual-trace mechanism of memory. Rever-
beratory neural activity was the trace for short-term
memory, and synaptic connections were the trace for
long-term memory. He hypothesized the conversion
of short-term memory into long-term memory by the
stabilization of reverberatory activity patterns. Once
such an activity pattern was stored, in a redistribu-
8
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
tion or change in the strength of synaptic connec-
tions, it could be recalled repeatedly by an excitation
from sensory neurons or from other reverberatory
activity patterns occurring in other cell assemblies
that provide inputs. In the past fty years, several
aspects of Hebb’s theory have been con rmed, while
the technology needed to prove or disprove other
aspects does not yet exist.
In the 1970s, new insights into the question of
what happens in the brain during the time interval
between stimulus and response were made possible
with the discovery of long-term potentiation. This
and the rst neural network models of delay activ-
ity provided a candidate for Hebb’s “reverberatory”
activity. For example, it has been demonstrated that
certain prefrontal cortex neurons remain active dur-
ing delays of many seconds and encode information
about the preceding stimulus or the impending
response. Changes in distribution and strength of
synapses have been con rmed, and this aspect of
his theory is not in doubt. What remains unknown
is whether the delay between stimulus and response
is truly due to a reverberatory type of activity, and if
so, if the reverberatory activity is stabilized by long-
term potentiation. Also, Hebb’s concept of only two
memory traces may be incorrect, as it is now known
that synaptic plasticity involves many processes op-
erating on different time scales.
34
CurrentPerspectivesontheNatureofEmotion
Most theorists now agree that emotion in-
volves, at the most fundamental level, the regis-
tration and interpretation of a stimulus based on
memory processes in addition to information from
physiological responses and subjective feeling states.
In more recent years, attempts have been made to de-
termine the “correct” sequence of these components
in the generation of emotional experience. However,
when interpretation, subjective feeling, and bodily
responses are all considered as
processes
, rather than
discrete events or simple input-output relations, the
source of a large part of the controversy dissolves.
18
We  nd that it is indeed possible to have emotional
processing in speci c brain areas simultaneously with
input from the body to the brain, each building on
the other to contribute to the dynamic process of
emotion. Recent elucidation of the numerous afferent
pathways through which the body transmits signals to
the brain and the interaction of this information with
higher-level brain processes provides strong support
for this perspective. Elmer Green, Menninger Clinic
physician and pioneer of the biofeedback approach
to treatment of disease, offered an astute summation
of this highly debated topic: “Every change in the
physiological state is accompanied by an appropriate
change in the mental emotional state, conscious or
unconscious, and conversely, every change in the
mental emotional state, conscious or unconscious, is
accompanied by an appropriate change in the physi-
ological state.”
35
The remaining element of the controversy,
namely the speci city of physiological responses,
must now take into account new data revealing that
communication between the body and the brain is
much more sophisticated and complex than previ-
ously imagined. The generation of such data has been
made possible, in part, due to the development of
more sophisticated recording techniques and instru-
mentation that more clearly capture the subtleties
and complexities of communication between different
bodily systems and between the body and brain. In
addition, technological advances have enabled us to
achieve  ner measurements of neuroendocrine and
immune activity, thereby offering a wider view into
the array of physiological responses at the cellular
level that accompany different emotional states.
Before introducing a new model of emotion
that synthesizes and further develops many of the
perspectives discussed here thus far, a brief review of
the role played by activity in both the efferent and af-
ferent pathways of the nervous systems in emotional
experience is relevant.
SpecicityofAutonomicResponses
Let’s return to Cannon’s assumption that all
emotions are associated with the same basic state of
nonspeci c arousal or activation of the ANS. In the
1960s, Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer, social
psychologists at Columbia University, embraced this
view by suggesting that a cognitive interpretation
of a basically undifferentiated state of physiological
arousal within the social or environmental context
9
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
of the arousing stimulus was the missing factor in
determining the speci city of emotion.
36
Schachter
and Singer’s model, called the
two-factor theory
, pro-
posed that emotions are produced by both feedback
from the body and the cognitive appraisal of what
caused those responses. In other words, we label the
response according to what we think is causing the
response. This theory had a profound in uence on
the thinking on the subject of emotion at the time.
However, in the last thirty years the tide has turned,
as increased evidence has emerged to indicate that
autonomic responses in different emotional states
are much more complex than previously assumed,
and certainly far from uniform.
In contrast to the thinking in Cannon’s day,
which attributed emotional arousal to sympathetic
nervous system activation alone, we now understand
that simultaneous and complex changes in the pat-
terns of efferent activity in both the sympathetic and
parasympathetic branches of the ANS are involved in
the experience of different emotions. The sensations
produced in any given emotional state depend on
the extent to which sympathetic effects are balanced
by parasympathetic in uences; thus sympathetic/
parasympathetic balance has become an important
measure in psychophysiological research.
Many emotional states are associated with
complex patterns of sympathetic/parasympathetic
activity in different tissues. For example, in states
of aggression and resentment, increased sympathetic
discharges occur in the vascular system while para-
sympathetic discharges predominate in the gastroin-
testinal tract. Conversely, increased sympathetic ac-
tivity occurs in both the cardiovascular and gastroin-
testinal systems in states of fear. Further, autonomic
responses vary both quantitatively and qualitatively
with the degree of emotional intensity.
37
A number of experiments conducted in the
1950s provided evidence that different emotions
could be differentiated psychophysiologically.
38-41
These ndings have been con rmed recently.
42-46
For example, in an experiment by Ekman and col-
leagues
43
at the University of California in San Fran-
cisco, subjects experienced different emotional states
(happiness, surprise, disgust, sadness, fear, and an-
ger) both by reliving past emotional experiences and
by constructing facial prototypes of emotion, muscle
by muscle, according to instruction. Speci c differ-
ences in the autonomic parameters of heart rate,
nger temperature, and skin resistance were found
among the six different emotions measured. The re-
sponse patterns differed not only between positive
and negative emotions, but also among the negative
emotions of disgust, sadness, anger, and fear. These
differences were consistent across profession, age,
gender, and culture.
43
While this and other research
provided convincing evidence of autonomic varia-
tion among different emotional states, the variation
measured was often small and present in only some
of the physiological parameters, or experienced by
only a subset of subjects.
A more recent study measuring multiple au-
tonomic parameters showed that six basic emotions
(happiness, surprise, anger, fear, sadness, and disgust)
could be fully differentiated on the basis of electroder-
mal variables (skin resistance, skin conductance, and
skin potential), thermovascular variables (skin blood
ow and skin temperature), and a respiratory vari-
able (instantaneous respiratory frequency).
45
These
results clearly support the concept of emotion-spe-
ci c ANS activity, which can be demonstrated with
the aid of careful experimental procedures providing
that a suf cient number of autonomic variables are
considered.
Individual differences in patterns of autonomic
discharge during emotional states have also been
identi ed and associated with personality charac-
teristics. For instance, individuals who have been
characterized as “impulsive” personality types dis-
play rhythmic bouts of palmar sweat secretion and
increases in heart rate even at rest, while in others,
little change occurs in these physiological parameters
under similar circumstances.
37
TheImportanceofAfferentInput
In addition to understanding how complex
patterns of efferent autonomic activity correlate to
differing emotions, many scientists are beginning to
understand the critical role played by the afferent
neural signals that  ow from the body to the brain.
10
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
Afferent feedback from bodily organs has been
shown to affect overall brain activity and to exert a
measurable in uence on cognitive, perceptual, and
emotional processes.
Physiology textbooks are replete with dia-
grams that illustrate nervous system pathways from
the brain to autonomically innervated organs. How-
ever, many of these illustrations do not complete
the communication circuit. They frequently omit the
extensive systems of visceral afferent  bers, which
carry messages from receptors in the body to the
brain. The nerve pathways connecting most organ
systems to the brain are, in fact, composed of as many
afferent bers as there are efferent connections;
47
while in some visceral nerves, such as the abdominal
vagus, up to 90 percent of the bers are afferent.
48
Remarkably, we now know that the heart sends more
neural traf c to the brain than the brain sends to the
heart. While afferent pathways were identi ed during
the early years of autonomic research, their study
was not emphasized. However, research conducted
primarily in the 1950s through the 1970s began to
illuminate the importance of afferent input from the
thoracic, abdominal, and neck cavities back to the
brain––and the effects of this input on brain activity
and emotional experience.
One of the earliest contributors to our under-
standing of the importance of afferent neural traf c
was the German internist, Ludwig van Müller. He
was particularly interested in the perception of sen-
sory stimuli arising from internal organs and their
role in the regulation of different bodily states and
sensations. He pointed out, in 1906, that emotions
in uence heart rate, and conversely, that heart rate
in uences emotions. For example, he observed that
cardiac palpitations can induce emotions.
50
Early neurophysiological evidence of the in u-
ence of afferent input on brain activity dates back to
1929. Tournade and Malméjac, followed by Koch two
years later, showed that stimulation of the carotid
sinus nerve (contributing afferent bers which enter
the brain stem), or an increase in pressure in the
carotid sinus itself, produced a decrease in muscle
tone in anaesthetized animals.
51
Koch also demon-
strated that by sharply increasing the pressure within
the carotid sinus he could inhibit motor activity and
induce prolonged sleep. These results were con rmed
in later investigations, which showed that disten-
tion of the carotid sinus produced marked changes
in cortical electrical activity, from low-voltage fast to
high-voltage slow waves (characteristic of sleep), and
inhibited activity of the pyramidal nerve cells in the
motor cortex, which control muscle movement.
51
In the 1950s, French and Italian neuro-
physiologists performed a variety of experiments
investigating the effects of changes in heart rate and
blood pressure on brain activity. Changes in heart
rate and blood pressure are detected by receptors
in the heart, the aortic arch, and the carotid sinus.
Information from these receptors is transmitted to
the brain stem via the vagal and glossopharyngeal
nerves.
52
In one study, Bonvallet and Allen demon-
strated that elimination of the glossopharyngeal and
vagal input to the brain resulted in a prolongation
of cortical activation and skeletal muscle activity.
53
Then in 1974, French researchers Gahery and Vi-
gier, working with cats, found that stimulating the
vagus nerve reduced the electrical response in the
cuneate nucleus of the brain to about half its normal
rate.
54
Since that time, extensive experimental data
have been gathered documenting the role played by
afferent input in modulating such varied processes
as pain perception,
55
hormone production, electro-
cortical activity, and cognitive functions.
57-59
Animal
studies have now demonstrated that a variety of brain
regions are involved in the processing of visceral af-
ferent information, including the hypothalamic and
thalamic nuclei, amygdala, hippocampus, cerebel-
lum, somatosensory cortex, prefrontal cortex, and
insula. Thus, it has become clear that the in uence
of cardiovascular afferent signals on the brain is far
more pervasive than previously considered.
Uncoveringconversationsbetweentheheartand
brain
Among the rst modern psychophysiological
researchers to systematically examine the “con-
versations” between the heart and brain were John
and Beatrice Lacey.
62
During 20 years of research
throughout the 1960s and 1970s, they observed
that afferent input from the heart and cardiovas-
cular system could signi cantly affect
perception
11
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
and behavior
. Their research produced a body of
and behavior. Their research produced a body of and behavior
behavioral and neurophysiological evidence suggest-
ing that sensory-motor integration could be modi ed
by cardiovascular activity.
52,63-66
The Laceys’ observations directly challenged
the “arousal” or “activation” theory proposed by
Cannon. In essence, Cannon believed that all of the
physiological indicators underlying emotion––heart
rate, blood pressure sweating, pupil dilation, nar-
rowing of certain blood vessels, and so on––moved
predictably
in concert
with the brain’s response to
in concert with the brain’s response to in concert
a given stimulus. Thus, Cannon had suggested that
when we are aroused, the sympathetic nervous
system mobilizes us to ght or ee. In contrast,
in quieter moments, the parasympathetic nervous
system relaxes our inner systems. Presumably, au-
tonomic responses all increased together when we
were aroused and decreased in unison when we were
at rest, and the brain was entirely in control of both
these processes.
The Laceys noticed that this view of activation
as a single dimension only partially matched actual
physiological behavior; they observed that all physi-
ological responses did not always move together. As
their research evolved, they found that the heart, in
particular, seemed to have its own peculiar logic that
frequently diverged from the direction of other ANS
responses. In essence, the heart seemed to behave
as if it had a mind of its own. In laboratory studies
of reaction time and operant responses, the Laceys
observed that, in response to certain stimuli, all
autonomic variables recorded did not exhibit the
expected response pattern typical of arousal. At
times, for example, heart rate decelerated and blood
pressure
decreased
, while simultaneously recorded
parameters such as skin conductance, respiration
rate, and pupillary dilation all increased as expected.
The Laceys called this phenomenon “directional frac-
tionation” and noted that it appeared to be depen-
dent upon the nature of the stimulus and the type of
mental processing involved.
63
The Laceys found that tasks requiring mental
concentration or attention to
internal
stimuli (
e.g.
,
mental arithmetic, reverse spelling, or making up
sentences) produced an acceleration in heart rate
and an increase in skin conductance. In contrast,
tasks requiring attention to the external environment
(e.g., detecting colors and patterns or empathizing
with a dramatic recitation) produced a marked de-
celeration in heart rate, although skin conductance
still increased. The Laceys also showed that patterns
of physiological responses were affected as much by
the context of a speci c task and its requirements as
by emotional stimuli. Thus, heart rate, for example,
tends to decrease, even in the presence of a distress-
ing emotional context, when subjects are attending
visually or auditorially to events in their external
environment; on the other hand, heart rate acceler-
ates when subjects mentally recall and think about
the very same unpleasant emotional material.
63-65
Subsequent research also revealed an intriguing link
between the heart rate response (but not other auto-
nomic responses) to different environmental stimuli
and an individual’s cognitive style, or attitude toward
the external environment.
67-68
The selectivity of the heart’s response indicated
that
it was not merely mechanically responding to
an arousal signal from the brain
. Even more in-
triguing, in simple reaction time experiments, which
required attention to external cues, an
anticipatory
deceleration in heart rate was observed during the
preparatory interval, and subjects’ reaction times
were faster during periods when their heart rate
was slowing.
52
This led the Laceys to propose that
cardiovascular afferent feedback to the higher brain
centers plays a role in
facilitating either the intake
or rejection of environmental stimuli
, in accordance
with the nature of the mental processing required
for a given task.
66
In brief, such a mechanism would
permit us effectively to “tune out” potentially disrup-
tive external environmental events when performing
tasks requiring internal cognitive elaboration, and,
conversely, to focus in on external inputs when our
activities demanded close attention to our environ-
ment.
To support this hypothesis, the Laceys and
others found evidence that in humans under nor-
mal physiological conditions, brain activity varies in
relation to cardiovascular events.
52,69
Thus, increased
heart rate and the resulting increased afferent dis-
charge inhibits (desynchronizes) cortical activity.
12
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
Conversely, decreased heart rate occurring prior
to sensory intake promotes cortical facilitation and
processing by reducing brain inhibition.
66
In their
reaction time experiments, the Laceys discovered
that the greater the cardiac deceleration, the greater
the cortical activation, and the greater the behavioral
ef ciency (
i.e.
, the faster the speed of response). In
other words,
afferent input to the brain from the
heart can either inhibit or facilitate the brain’s
activity, which, in turn, can affect perception and
motor activity
.
Evokedpotentialstudies
A useful technique for the study of how and
where information ows through the brain is evoked
potential analysis. Evoked potentials (also sometimes
referred to as event-related potentials) are obtained
using signal averaging, a procedure for separating a
known repetitive signal from other signals. Evoked
potential analysis can be used to study the ow of
information through many different pathways in the
brain. Common applications of the technique are to
study the visual, auditory, and somatosensory sys-
tems. In the case of the visual system, for example,
the  ow of information through the nervous system
produced in response to a series of light  ashes or a
changing visual stimulus of any kind can be traced
through the different visual pathways as it is pro-
cessed. In this case, the resulting waveforms are
called visual evoked potentials. It is also possible to
examine the ow of afferent input through the brain
from many other sensory systems, such as the audi-
tory and tactile systems, or to assess how a change in
afferent signals generated by one system affects the
processing of information in another system.
For example, the effects of cardiac afferent
input on sensory perception have been studied by
looking at how these signals affect processing in the
visual system. It has been shown that the process-
ing of visual information is signi cantly changed
as heart rate and carotid pressure change. These
ndings provide con rmation of the Laceys’ earlier
behavioral evidence that cardiovascular activity in-
uences sensory intake.
70
While these data indirectly support the view
that cardiovascular afferent information interacts
with higher central nervous functions, experiments
by the German researcher Rainer Schandry and oth-
ers have provided more direct psychophysiological
evidence for this perspective. Their work has demon-
strated that cardiovascular events like heartbeats are
detectable as a signal in the EEG and evoke cortical
responses analogous to “classical” sensory event-re-
lated potentials.
60,71,72
When the heart’s afferent sig-
nals are being studied, the ECG R-wave is used as the
timing source for the signal averaging and the result-
ing waveforms are called heartbeat evoked potentials
(HBEPs). These experiments have shown that the
processing of afferent input from the cardiovascular
system is accompanied by speci c electrical activity
in the brain. This processing of cardiovascular affer-
ent information is most pronounced at the frontocor-
tical areas, a brain region known to be particularly
involved in the processing of visceral afferent infor-
mation. Recent ndings have demonstrated that the
HBEP is signi cantly diminished in diabetic patients
with autonomic neuropathy, and reduced amplitude
of the HBEP is signi cantly correlated with reduced
awareness of body sensations.
73
In other words, when
the communication of afferent signals from the heart
to the brain is compromised, there is less awareness
of feeling sensations in the body.
Furthermore, psychological factors, such as
motivation, attention to cardiac sensations, and
general perceptual sensitivity, have been found to
alter HBEPs in the brain in a manner analogous to
the cortical processing of external stimuli.
60,72
These
ndings con rm our own data demonstrating that
focusing attention in the area of the heart and gener-
ating a positive emotion alters HBEPs, thus indicating
an modulation of cortical processing. Taken together,
these data suggest that perception and processing of
information arising from bodily processes is compa-
rable to perception and processing of external events,
and the effects of both sources of input on perceptual
and emotional experience must be considered.
In summary, evidence now clearly demon-
strates that afferent signals from the heart signi -
cantly in uence cortical activity. Speci cally, we now
know that afferent messages from the cardiovascular
system are not only relayed to the brain stem to ex-
13
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
ert homeostatic effects on cardiovascular regulation,
but also have separate effects on aspects of higher
perceptual activity and mental processing. Further-
more, as discussed next, there are now data from
both animals and humans to support the premise
that central
emotional processing
is also altered by
emotional processing is also altered by emotional processing
afferent input from the heart.
Afferentinputinuencesemotionalprocessing:The
roleoftheamygdala
The in uence of cardiovascular afferent input
to the brain on emotional processes is highlighted by
recent evidence suggesting that psychological aspects
of panic disorder are often created by unrecognized
paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), a
sudden-onset atrial arrhythmia. According to one
study, DSM-IV criteria for panic disorder were ful-
lled in more than two-thirds of patients with these
sudden-onset arrhythmias. In those patients in whom
PSVT was unrecognized at initial evaluation, symp-
toms were attributed to panic, anxiety, or stress in
54 percent of the cases. In the majority of cases,
once the arrhythmia was recognized and treated,
the panic disorder disappeared.
74
Interestingly, this
study con rmed the observations of pioneer ANS re-
searcher Müller, who reported the induction of emo-
tions by cardiac palpitations over 90 years earlier.
50
Likewise, our research has also shown that changing
the pattern of afferent information generated by the
cardiovascular system can signi cantly in uence
perception and emotional experience.
12,75
The amygdala has been the subject of intense
scrutiny in recent years. This brain center plays a
key role in emotional memory, emotional processing,
and dreaming.
76
Several studies have investigated the
effects of cardiovascular afferent input on the amyg-
daloid complex (
i.e.
, the amygdala and associated
nuclei). For example, in cats, spontaneous neural
activity in the central nucleus of the amygdala has
been shown to be synchronized to the cardiac cycle
and to be modulated by afferent input from the aortic
depressor and carotid sinus nerves.
77
Similarly, data
from humans undergoing surgery for epilepsy dem-
onstrated that cells within the amygdaloid complex
speci cally responded to information from the car-
diac cycle.
78
Pribram, who did much of the original
mapping of the functions of the amygdaloid complex,
found it has extensive projections to both the brain
stem autonomic nuclei and the higher cognitive cen-
ters, and is thus uniquely placed to coordinate affec-
tive, behavioral, immunological, and neuroendocrine
responses to environmental stimuli.
16,79
The observed
interaction of afferent cardiac input with this brain
region supports the view that visceral information
not only in uences emotional processing and emo-
tional experience, but can also in uence hormonal
and immune responses.
75
Taken together with the demonstrated role of
the amygdala in the regulation of viscero-autonomic
activity and the resultant effects on familiarization,
considered below, a new view of emotional process-
ing and regulation emerges.
TheRoleofFamiliarizationinEmotionalProcessing
To further unfold our understanding of the
emotional system and the heart’s role in emotion,
we now review the model of emotion rst developed
by Karl Pribram. Simply said, in Pribram’s model a
memory, or stable pattern of activity, is formed and
maintained in the neural architecture of the brain as
we gain experience both in internal self-regulation
and in interacting with the external environment.
These stable patterns are updated and modi ed as we
encounter new experiences and learn how a certain
action usually leads to speci c result. All ongoing or
current sensory input to the brain, from both the
internal and external sensory systems, is compared
to these stable patterns. When a mismatch between
current input and a stable pattern occurs, novelty
is sensed.
These stable patterns create a set of “expec-
tancies” against which breathing, eating, drinking,
sleeping, alerting, sexual, and other behaviors are
evaluated. The stable neurological pattern acts as
a set point against which an input is matched, and
therefore determines what is familiar and what is
novel, and perhaps exciting.
14
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
The set point, based on previous experience,
becomes a reference point for evaluating current and
future experience, and is biased or adjusted according
to ongoing experience. To maintain stability as we
encounter life’s events, we must make adjustments
that return us to the “familiar” set point. These ad-
justments require us to take an “action”—which can
be either an outward action (
i.e.
, control of some kind
over the external environment) or an internal adjust-
ment (
i.e.
, self-control of our inner environment).
Since our psychophysiological systems are designed
to maintain stability and resist change, returning
to familiar set points gives us a sense and feeling
of security, while remaining in unfamiliar territory
causes unrest. Interestingly, this is true even if the
established set point is one of chaos and confusion.
Attention
No conscious awareness of anything, including
our emotions, is possible until it has captured our
attention. Sensory neurons in our eyes, ears, nose,
and body are in continuous action, day and night,
whether we are awake or asleep. The brain receives
a steady stream of information about all the events
the sense organs are capable of detecting. It would
be bewildering if we were continuously aware of all
the incoming information. In fact, we completely
ignore most of the information arriving at the brain
most of the time. Yet any input is capable of shift-
ing and dominating our attention. In order for this
process to function, there must be mechanisms and
processes that direct
selective
attention. The atten-
tion mechanisms must continuously scan the avail-
able information and assign priority, usually based
on biological importance. Large, sudden, novel
occurrences typically have the ability to grab our
attention. Emotions also have the ability to capture
and focus attention, and attention is involved in the
management of our emotional state.
In 1890, William James described attention
thus:
Everyoneknowswhatattentionis.Itistakingpossessionofthemind,in
clearandvividform,ofoneoutofwhatseemsseveralsimultaneously
possibleobjectsor trainsofthought.Focalization,concentrationof
consciousness,are ofitsessence. It implieswithdrawalfromsome
thingsinordertodealeffectivelywithothers,andisaconditionwhich
hasarealoppositeintheconfused,dazed,scatterbrainedstate…
81
(pp.403-404)
Many laboratories around the world have in-
vestigated the brain structures involved in awareness
and attention. Generally there have been two ap-
proaches to attention research: (1) recording physi-
ological or behavioral responses against a background
of regular, repeating sensory events and (2) pairing of
the outcome of the response to sensory events.
When a new stimulus is presented to the
brain, a change in activity in the central and auto-
nomic nervous systems is produced. If the response
is short-lived (1–3 seconds), it is called
arousal
or an
orienting re ex
. If, however, the stimulus or event is
recurrent, the brain rapidly adapts and we
habitu-
ate
. For example, people who live in a noisy city
adapt to the ambient noise and eventually become
unaware of it. However, when they take a trip to the
quiet countryside, the lack of noise seems strange
and noticeable. Thus, any change in the stimulus will
cause the reappearance of the arousal response, or
the orienting re ex. The arousal reaction therefore
re ects a
mismatch
between the new information
and the familiar representation stored in the brain.
A change in brain potentials can be measured during
the arousal response to a novel stimulus, and is called
mismatch negativity
.
82
The observed changes in the
nervous system can be separated into a
phasic
com-
ponent, which habituates quickly, and a long-lasting
tonic
component, which habituates more slowly.
83
James, and more recently Pribram and Mc-
Guiness, also distinguished two types of attention.
Pribram and McGuiness called these involuntary
and voluntary.
Involuntary
or
primary attention
,
as James called it, is provoked by certain classes
of stimuli that are novel, salient, or intense, which
impinge upon our awareness regardless of ongoing
activity.
Voluntary attention
, on the other hand,
describes the process whereby the individual vol-
untarily determines the contents of his/her own
awareness and the duration of focus. In the Pribram
and McGuinness model, the distinction between
involuntary and voluntary attention identi es two
aspects of attentional control: one regulates
arousal
resulting from a mismatch in sensory input; the other
controls the preparatory
activation
of potential re-
sponses. In addition, there is a third aspect of atten-
tion that serves to coordinate involuntary arousal
15
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
and voluntary activation, and this aspect of attention
requires effort.
2
Pattern-MatchingandtheMaintenanceofStability
In their book titled
Plans and the Structure
of Behavior
, Miller, Galanter, and Pribram propose
of Behavior, Miller, Galanter, and Pribram propose of Behavior
that in order for an organism to maintain contin-
ued stability, it must be able to maintain a match
between its current experience or “reality” and its
neural and hormonal set points or
programs
.”
84
These programs consist of hierarchies of nested neu-
ral feedback loops that determine what is familiar.
Incongruities or differences in the input (new expe-
riences) arouse or activate us depending upon the
degree of mismatch, and, in most cases, determine
what action is needed to reestablish stability. When
the differences (mismatch) are of suf cient magni-
tude, there is a temporary discontinuity; importantly,
it is this discontinuity or mismatch—effectively a
departure from the familiar
departure from the familiar
—that gives rise to the
departure from the familiar—that gives rise to the departure from the familiar
experience of emotion
. In this context, it is interest-
ing to note that the word “emotion” derives from
the Latin
emovere
, which means “to move out or
away from.”
Pribram, in his book
Languages of the Brain
,
carries the theory further. When the input to the
brain does not match the existing program, an ad-
justment must be made in an attempt to achieve
control and return to stability. One way to rees-
tablish control is by taking an outward action. We
are motivated to eat if we feel hungry, run away or
ght if threatened, do something to draw attention
to ourselves if feeling ignored, etc. Alternatively, we
can reestablish stability and gain control by making
an internal adjustment (without any overt action).
For example, a confrontation at work may lead to
feelings of anger, which can prompt inappropriate
behavior (
i.e.
, outward actions such as yelling, hit-
ting, etc.). However, through internal adjustments,
we can self-manage our feelings in order to inhibit
these responses, reestablish stability, and maintain
our job. Thus, stabilization is achieved through ex-
ternal action on the environment or through internal
self-control. These processes are referred to, respec-
tively, as motivational control and emotional control.
Ultimately, when we achieve stability through our
efforts, the results are feelings of satisfaction and
grati cation. By contrast, when there is a failure to
achieve stability or control, feelings such as anxiety,
panic, annoyance, apprehension, hopelessness, or
depression result.
Pribram and many others have conducted
numerous experiments providing evidence that
these sorts of internal adjustments, although com-
monplace, represent a complex interplay between
peripheral and central processes. For example, the
afferent input systems and even their receptors are
modulated by the central nervous system, which
alters information processing in the sensory input
channel.
86
In other words, the higher brain centers
can inhibit or “gate” the information owing into
the brain. There are many examples of how we can
control input channels. Where we focus our attention
has a powerful effect on modulating inputs and thus
on determining what gets processed at higher levels.
In a noisy room  lled with many conversations, we
have the ability to tune out the noise and focus on a
single conversation of interest. In a like manner, we
can modulate pain from a stubbed toe or headache or
desensitize ourselves to sensations like tickling.
Arousal
There is ample support that arousal, measured
as EEG desynchronization, occurs in response to
novel or unfamiliar input, and that arousal is one of
the elements of emotional experience. In classical
models of arousal theory, the amount of neural and/or
hormonal activity generated in response to a given
stimulus or event determines whether the experience
leads to familiarization or disruption. Arousal theory
states that a correlation exists between the amount
of a speci c hormone or amount of neural excitation
and the amount of emotional arousal.
However, this is only part of the story. Arousal
can at times be associated with an increase the
amount
of neural activity, but arousal can also oc-
cur without any increase in neural activity. In the
latter case what does change, instead, is the
pattern
of activity in the nervous system (for example, varia-
tions in the time intervals between sequential rings
of a neuron or group of neurons, or in which efferent
pathways are active). Therefore, the amount of neu-
ral activity does not always necessarily indicate the
16
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
level of arousal.
80
This is an important realization, as
it shifts the focus from thinking in terms of amount
of activity alone to understanding the importance
of the pattern of activity. This is also related to the
observation that differing emotions are re ected in
the patterns of the heart rhythm. For example, during
an emotional state shift, the
pattern
of beat-to-beat
heart rate variability can shift dramatically, while the
amount
of variability remains exactly the same. This
is not to imply that changes in the amount of neural
activity or amount of heart rate variability are not
also important sources of information that contribute
to ongoing emotional experience. However, in the
broader context of the model presented here, such
variations can also be considered as changes in pat-
tern relative to a familiar baseline or set-point.
TheRoleoftheHeart
Monitoring the alterations in the rates,
rhythms, and patterns of afferent traf c is a key
function of the cortical and emotional systems in
the brain. Pribram was well aware of the in uence
of afferent input from the heart and other organ sys-
tems in determining the set points, or what becomes
the familiar pattern, as far back as 1969, when he
wrote:
Visceralfeedbackconstitutes,bythenatureofitsreceptoranatomy
anddiffuseafferentorganization,amajorsourceofinputtothisbiasing
mechanism;itisaninputwhichcandomuchtodetermineset-point.
Inaddition, cardiovascularandautonomicevents are repetitiously
redundantinthehistoryoftheorganism.Theyvaryrecurrently,leading
tostablehabituations;thisisincontrasttoexternalchangeswhichvary
fromoccasion tooccasion.Habituation tovisceraland autonomic
activitymakes up, therefore,alarge share…of the stablebase-line
fromwhichtheorganism’sreactionscantakeoff.
80
(p.322)
These set points establish a background against
which blood pressure, hormonal balance, and all
regularly recurring behaviors are initiated and main-
tained. For example, when we sense a mismatch be-
tween our actual heart rate and the habituated heart
rate, we generate a feeling (
e.g.
, excitement or anxi-
ety if heart rate is accelerated). The speci c feeling
experienced may re ect the nature of the mismatch.
Importantly, a mismatch may be registered not only
due to changes in heart rate but also due to changes
in the pattern of the afferent traf c.
Although input originating from many different
bodily organs and systems is involved in the processes
that ultimately determine emotional experience, it
has become clear that the heart plays a particularly
important role. The heart is the primary and most
consistent source of dynamic rhythmic patterns in
the body. Furthermore, the afferent networks con-
necting the heart and cardiovascular system with the
brain are far more extensive than the afferent systems
associated with other major organs. Additionally,
the heart is particularly sensitive and responsive to
changes in a number of other psychophysiological
systems. For example, heart rhythm patterns are
continually and rapidly modulated by changes in the
activity of either branch of the ANS, and the heart’s
extensive intrinsic network of sensory neurons also
enables it to detect and respond to variations in
hormonal rhythms and patterns.
87
In addition to
functioning as a sophisticated information processing
and encoding center,
88
the heart is also an endocrine
gland that produces and secretes hormones and neu-
rotransmitters.
89-92
Thus, with each beat, the heart
not only pumps blood, but also continually transmits
dynamic patterns of neurological, hormonal, pres-
sure, and electromagnetic information to the brain
and throughout the body.
93
Therefore, the multiple
inputs from the heart and cardiovascular system to
the brain are a major contributor in establishing the
dynamics of the baseline pattern or set point against
which the “now” (current input) is compared.
The repeating rhythmic patterns generated by
the heart, whether they are ordered or disordered,
become familiar to the brain. At the brain stem level,
these patterns are compared to set points that control
blood pressure, affect respiration rate, and gate the
ow of activity in the descending branches of the
autonomic system. From there, these signals cas-
cade up to a number of subcortical centers, such as
the thalamus, hypothalamus, and amygdala, which
are involved in the processing of emotion. With the
understanding that the emotional system operates
essentially as a pattern recognition system, the  nd-
ing that a signi cant proportion of people diagnosed
with panic disorder actually have an unrecognized
atrial arrhythmia is easily understandable. When a
sudden-onset arrhythmia occurs, there is a large and
sudden change in the pattern of afferent signals ar-
riving at the amygdala and hippocampus, resulting
17
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
in a signi cant mismatch between the current input
and the familiar, stable pattern. The system is un-
able to achieve stability through an outward action
or through an internal adjustment; the mismatch
therefore captures attention and gives rise to feelings
of fear and anxiety, which build to panic. In cases
where the arrhythmia is constant or occurs more
frequently, the system adapts or habituates––in other
words, the new input pattern becomes familiar.
On the other hand, a change in the pattern
of afferent cardiovascular input that accompanies
a more coherent or ordered heart rhythm, such as
those that occur with certain breathing techniques
or the use of HeartMath positive emotion-focused
tools, results in a “pattern match” associated with
security and positive emotional experience. These
coherent rhythms are familiar to a “healthy” system
as they have occurred spontaneously many times
during sleep and positive emotional states. However,
in many individuals, a coherent pattern is rare and
relatively unfamiliar to the brain. In this case, with
the practice of self-generating coherent rhythms,
they become the familiar baseline pattern and that
which the system attempts to maintain.
EmotionalInstability
When the neural systems that maintain the
baseline reference patterns are in an unstable state
(due to stress, anxiety, chemical stimulants, etc.),
sensory input from either internal or external sources
that would ordinarily be processed smoothly can be
perceived as a mismatch and give rise to an uncom-
fortable feeling. Thus, patterns of neural activity in
the brain can effectively predispose the individual
towards either stability or instability. The reference
patterns can be temporarily destabilized by large,
sudden changes in the pattern of afferent activity,
such as those that occur in the example of a sudden-
onset arrhythmia or during an emotionally charged
situation. If a reference pattern is destabilized, a
mismatch can be perceived even in the absence of
novel input. This explains why we can have an upset-
ting interaction with our spouse, and even though
things may have been smoothed over and the event
consciously forgotten, we could subsequently be set
off by what we perceive as a funny look from a co-
worker upon arriving at the of ce. Physiologically,
the instability is still in our system. Under normal
circumstances, the look would have gone unnoticed.
Likewise, had we been able to stabilize our neural
systems by clearing the emotional residue on the
way to work, the look from the coworker would not
have thrown us off.
In addition to processes that monitor the in-
put and controls for maintaining stability (pattern
matching) in the here-and-now, there are also match-
ing processes that appraise the degree of congruity
or incongruity between the past and the now and
between the now and the projected future. Further-
more, these prospective appraisals can be divided
into optimistic and pessimistic.
94
If the appraisal does
not result in a projected ability to return to stability,
feelings of fear and anxiety can result. This appraisal
could be due to past experience of similar situations
or a lack of experience in the projected future situ-
ation. However, as we encounter novel situations
and learn that we are able to maintain stability, we
can apply that experience to similar future situations
without fear.
Pribram states that when a homeostatic
system becomes stabilized and a new pattern has
become familiar, new sensitivities develop and dif-
ferent strategies and programs are added to handle
the acquired sensitivities.
95
In essence, we mature.
Encountering novel situations or obstacles requires
that we develop new strategies: we either take an
external action to gain control or self-manage our
internal systems. Once we learn how to handle the
new challenge effectively and maintain stability, the
strategy (complex pattern) for dealing with the chal-
lenge becomes familiar and part of our repertoire.
Through this process, we increase our internal self-
control and management of emotions as well as our
ability to effectively deal with external situations.
The baseline patterns maintained in the neural
architecture are modi ed by other sources of neural
and hormonal input that affect the “bias” or sen-
sitivity of the system. Because the neural systems
involved in comparing the incoming sensory infor-
mation are made up of short, ne  bers with many
branches, they are especially sensitive to hormonal
in uences. Thus, the system is readily affected by
18
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
changes in the patterns of hormonal input associated
with different psychophysiological states. In this way
hormones provide important in uences on the brain
processes involved in the experience of emotion.
TheMakingofEmotions:AConvergingView
In summary, we can see earlier theories of emo-
tion, coupled with current research, converging into
a more complete and comprehensive view of emo-
tions. Endocrine research signi cantly advanced the
previous view of emotions as “humors.” The visceral
theory acknowledged an arousal mechanism that pro-
vides feelings of interest, novelty, and familiarity, as
well as more painful disruptions of stable states.
James emphasized the communication of bodily
responses to the brain. Cannon’s thalamic theory
contributed by offering evidence of the thalamus as
a prime locus for processing emotional information
from the body’s chemical homeostatic systems. Pa-
pez and MacLean introduced the idea of emotional
circuits and systems instead of a single center and
added the possibility of a memory component to the
emotional system. With Pribram’s cortical control of
afferent input and monitoring of a departure from
stable, familiar patterns, it becomes clear that
both
the brain and the entire body are involved in the
full experience and expression of emotions
.
With this understanding in mind, we can
view the experience of emotion as emerging from
an intricate array of interactions occurring within
a complex system. Broadly speaking, its main com-
ponents include the brain and nervous system, the
hormonal system, and body. Although there are
numerous sources of bodily input to the brain, the
heart is given particular relevance in the emotional
system due to its unique degree of afferent input
and its consistent generation of dynamic rhythmic
patterns that are closely coupled with changes in
emotional state. From a generalized perspective, one
of the ways an emotion is generated is through the
comparison of information received from the exter-
nal sensory systems, (
e.g
., sights, sounds, and smells)
against preexisting memories. This processing occurs
at unconscious levels, unless attention is captured,
and results in changes in the patterns of descending
autonomic activity owing to the body. This leads
to a wide variety of speci c changes in biochemical
outputs and biophysical states, such as alterations in
patterns of muscle tension (especially in the face),
adrenal secretions, vascular resistance, cardiac out-
put, and heart rhythms. These alterations, in turn,
result in changes in the afferent inputs from the body
back to the brain, which are then compared to a set
of preexisting reference patterns. This ascending
bodily input is crucial to the felt experience of an
emotion, and may or may not reinforce the cogni-
tive level appraisal and labeling of the feeling. The
process continues as the system makes external and
internal adjustments in order to maintain stability,
and, depending upon the outcome, can further color
and add textures to the emotional experience. Of
course, this is only one example, as the process can
also be initiated by changes in the internal systems
alone as well as through many combinations of the
internal and external sensory systems’ interactions
with the reference patterns and memories.
Within the context of the model of emotion
developed here, we can also gain new insight into the
mechanisms underlying the ef cacy of the HeartMath
emotional restructuring techniques, which produce a
positive emotion-driven shift in the heart’s rhythmic
patterns, and thus a change in the pattern of cardiac
afferent input to the brain. The coupling of a more or-
ganized pattern of afferent input with an intentionally
self-generated positive emotion reinforces the natu-
ral conditioning between the coherent physiological
mode and the positive emotion. This subsequently
strengthens the ability of a positive emotional shift
to initiate a physiological shift towards increased
coherence, and a physiological shift to facilitate the
experience of a positive emotion.
From the perspective presented in this paper,
HeartMath interventions affect several aspects of
the emotional process. First, by reducing nervous
system chaos, they stabilize the neural systems that
maintain the baseline or reference patterns against
which incoming information is compared. They
also modify the baseline patterns by reinforcing the
coherent psychophysiological patterns associated
with positive emotions and allowing these patterns
to become familiar, thus effectively establishing a new
19
© Copyright 2003 Institute of HeartMath
baseline or norm. Once this new reference pattern
established, the system then automatically strives to
maintain this state.
With practice of these techniques, as the neural
architecture comes to recognize the patterns associ-
ated with coherent heart rhythms as familiar, it be-
comes progressively easier to intentionally generate
coherent rhythms and their psychophysiological ben-
e ts, even during experiences of stress or challenge.
Moreover, we have demonstrated that as people con-
tinue to practice intentionally self-generating states
of psychophysiological coherence using heart-based
techniques, they also begin to demonstrate a greater
frequency of
spontaneous
heart rhythm coherence,
without conscious use of the interventions. These
data support the concept the techniques facilitate an
actual repatterning process at the level of the neural
architecture, which can be objectively assessed using
electrophysiological measures.
In sum, consistent use of heart-based posi-
tive emotion-focused techniques reinforces existing
neural pathways that the brain uses to control its
input (self-manage) and facilitates the establishment
of new control pathways, thus improving our abil-
ity to self-manage our emotions and regulate our
physiological state. Experientially, the occurrence of
a system-wide repatterning process with consistent
use of the HeartMath interventions is supported by
reports from thousands of individuals who have noted
enduring improvements in many aspects of health,
well-being, and performance, increased emotional
stability and new capabilities for dealing with stress
and challenges. In a very real sense, we become the
architects of our own neural landscape.
Acknowledgments
I would like to express my appreciation
to Dr. Karl Pribram for his careful review of
this monograph and his insightful input on its
content.
HeartMath is a registered trademark of the Insti-
tute of HeartMath
.
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... Usually hospital intervention programs focus on the baby and mother health conditions; nonetheless, there is no data and assistance whatsoever of the child and his future living conditions, ignoring alarm violence risk factors [1]. Preventing program has not yet been established predicting child abuse potential, taking control of cases before occurs; however, is a promising resolution that has been ignored or received less attention than models which intervene after maltreatment has been confirmed. ...
... This essay concludes that the origin of child abuse by violent mothers occurs during the gestational stage in women emotionally disconnected from their nasciturus under conditions of severe depression and/or anxiety during pregnancy or after childbirth [1]. Nevertheless, with the exclusion of severe psychiatric illnesses, the disturbing emotions derived from the rejection of pregnancy can potentially be reversed through a non-invasive, universal and low-cost hospital procedure. ...
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Full-text available
Adverse and hostile emotions experienced by the mother during pregnancy derive in brain damage in the unborn child. These brain alterations are aggressions to a child during the gestational stage. The US National Institutions of Health report that rejection of pregnancy and absence of the maternal affective early bond, when combined with mental disorders in parents, is highly predictive risk factors for child abuse and intentional killing babies before 18months of life. Usually hospital intervention programs focus on the baby and mother health conditions; nonetheless, there is no data and assistance whatsoever of the child and his future living conditions, ignoring alarm violence risk factors [1]. Preventing program has not yet been established predicting child abuse potential, taking control of cases before occurs; however, is a promising resolution that has been ignored or received less attention than models which intervene after maltreatment has been confirmed. This essay concludes that the origin of child abuse by violent mothers occurs during the gestational stage in women emotionally disconnected from their nasciturus under conditions of severe depression and/or anxiety during pregnancy or after childbirth [1]. Nevertheless, with the exclusion of severe psychiatric illnesses, the disturbing emotions derived from the rejection of pregnancy can potentially be reversed through a non-invasive, universal and low-cost hospital procedure. Medical researchers are consistent that mother timely bonding is determinant to anchor affectionate care of her kid. Harrods Buhner evidences that both mothers and baby hearths produce emotional information which is transferred each other by the umbilical cord, molecularly anchored the meaning of the emotions in both organisms[2]. An obstetric intervention model is suggested to identify neonates at risk as well implementing a bonding cardioneurocognitive procedure during pre-natal, birth moment and post-natal stages to prevent abuse, abandonment or death.
... John and Beatrice Lacey suggested this conversation between these two organs-through their various experiments on animals during the 1960s and 1970s. Afferent signals from the heart influence brain perceptions and thus behavior of animals [23]. ...
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The heart is extensively supplied with nerves of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). These nerves allow the brain to have neural control of vital cardiac activity. The sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of ANS act antagonistically to regulate the mechanical and physiological functions of the heart, atrial and ventricular contractions, heartbeat, heart rhythm, blood flow, and blood pressure. Nerves descending from the brain stem provide a continuous network of cardiac nerves and ganglia disseminated in the atrial and ventricular epicardial of the heart. This extensive system of nerves in the heart, termed the intrinsic cardiac nervous system (ICNS), controls local cardiac activity and is sometimes called the "little brain". However, the little brain is not solely responsible for the cardiac activity, as is evident in various cardiovascular diseases. A brain injury can affect heart function, indicating that the brain plays a significant role in modulation heart physiology. A scientific quest that has been continuing for more than a century has unraveled some of the factors responsible for heart functions. In recent years, crosstalk between the little brain and the brain's central nervous system has become a crucial topic of research as scientists have realized its clinical implications. The high number of deaths from cardiovascular disease has made it imperative to explore this interactive signaling network to develop appropriate therapeutic interventions. In this review, the role played by this second brain is explicated, leading to a greater understanding not only of its function within the heart but also its connection to the human brain.
... And they do come. Research at the Heart Math Institute (see McCraty, 2003) has discovered that the heart produces a significant amount of electromagnetic energy -its subtle signals might be able to be felt by other animals many feet away. The maps of subtle energies that yogis feel flowing within the "subtle body" do not seem to correspond to structures in the nervous system or circulatory system, but new research is suggesting that they may correspond well with structures within the lymphatic or fascia systems, and that 'energetic' healing can be understood through known science (Oschman, 2015;Winstead-Fry & Kijek, 1999;Reite & Zimmerman, 1978). ...
... HRV was measured using the HeartMath® EmWave® Pro device [45][46][47], which measures HRV with an ear sensor and returns a variability value in real time generated by a hardware/software system (EmWave Pro desktop). The software uses the HRV measurement as a basis to establish a coherence score, calculated as a ratio between the low frequency component of the HRV (00.4-0.15 ...
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Full-text available
Background The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is involved in the response to various emotional stimuli like anxiety, stress, and the sense of wellbeing. As a control system the ANS plays a variety of roles in humans, including regulation of the cardiac function, which can be studied by analyzing heart rate variability (HRV). HRV coherence has been associated with a sense of wellbeing, along with enhanced cognitive, social, and physical performance. Extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) are used in a variety of clinical areas, however very little is known to date about the functional mechanisms involved in vivo. An interaction with the ANS is one of the possible ways in which the effects of ELF-EMF therapy are modulated in living systems. In this single-blind study the effects on the ANS of 5 different electromagnetic configurations were analysed by measuring the HRV using a HeartMath® EmWave® Pro device. Materials and methods 46 healthy subjects of 20 to 30 years in age were recruited and divided into two groups (treatment group µ and control group λ). After measuring the baseline HRV coherence state (ω) the subjects in group µ were assessed during administration of 5 different ELF-EMF configurations from a SEQEX® device, all at the same intensity of 20 μT (the name attributed to the configuration is in brackets) for a duration of 3 min. each: 1-3 Hz (δ), 4-8 Hz (θ), 9-13 Hz (α), 15-29 Hz (β), and 31-56 Hz (γ). The subjects in group λ were measured in the same way and the same number of times. Results The initial coherence values ω were comparable between the two groups (µ: 36%, λ: 36.39%). Under the 1-3 Hz (δ) and 15-29 Hz (β) treatment configurations, group µ had an average HRV coherence of 46.26% and 47.26% respectively, while group λ had 38.13% and 37.39% respectively, representing a significant increase in HRV coherence under treatment (pδ = 0.035 and pβ = 0.046). Conclusions The ANS appears to be sensitive in a frequency dependent manner to treatment with ELF-EMF. This is very important, if confirmed in further studies, not only for better understanding the mechanism of action of ELF-EMF on complex biological systems, but more importantly for therapeutic purposes under different levels of psychopathological discomfort like stress and anxiety, as well as for modulating perceived pain and organ dysregulation.
... Another study also found that PTSD patients showed higher peak alpha and lower HF than healthy controls (32). This connection between the heart and the brain is known to be related to the experience of emotions (33)(34)(35). ...
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Childhood trauma is known to be related to emotional problems, quantitative electro-encephalography (EEG) indices, and heart rate variability (HRV) indices in adulthood, whereas directions among these factors have not been reported yet. This study aimed to evaluate pathway models in young and healthy adults: (1) one with physiological factors first and emotional problems later in adulthood as results of childhood trauma and (2) one with emotional problems first and physiological factors later. A total of 103 non-clinical volunteers were included. Self-reported psychological scales, including the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory, and Affective Lability Scale were administered. For physiological evaluation, EEG record was performed during resting eyes closed condition in addition to the resting state HRV, and the quantitative power analyses of eight EEG bands and three HRV components were calculated in the frequency domain. After a normality test, Pearson's correlation analysis to make path models and path analyses to examine them were conducted. The CTQ score was significantly correlated with depression, state and trait anxiety, affective lability, and HRV low-frequency (LF) power. LF power was associated with beta2 (18-22 Hz) power that was related to affective lability. Affective lability was associated with state anxiety, trait anxiety, and depression. Based on the correlation and the hypothesis, two models were composed: a model with pathways from CTQ score to affective lability, and a model with pathways from CTQ score to LF power. The second model showed significantly better fit than the first model (AICmodel1 = 63.403 > AICmodel2 = 46.003), which revealed that child trauma could affect emotion, and then physiology. The specific directions of relationships among emotions, the EEG, and HRV in adulthood after childhood trauma was discussed.
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This work supports the hypothesis that the source of child abuse and homicide, perpetrated by the mother, occurs during the gestational stage, birth, and postnatal period, in women who do not build during these stages, an affective bond with the baby/nasciturus, likewise, the woman, is afflicted with a mental disorder most frequency depression, psychosis, anxiety, low tolerance of frustrating, and poor impulse control, to deal with stressful living conditions. From 2009 to 2014, the FUPAVI’s foundation, applied a test of 221 women with a background of child abuse, 189 reported rejection of pregnancy, and affective disconnection to the baby, 171 were under stress, and untreated depression, or other mental disorder. 32 accepted the pregnancy, but not on a state of contentment. The revealing part of the procedure laid on the fact that the results, were susceptible of predicting child abuse, or potential murderer timely Scientific findings of hearth interconnectivity techniques between the mother and her baby are revealed to prevent child abuse. Keywords: Maternal bond, pregnancy, child abuse, prevent, mental disorder, nasciturs
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Adverse and hostile emotions experienced by the mother during pregnancy derive in brain damage in the unborn child. These brain alterations are aggressions to a child during the gestational stage. The US National Institutions of Health report that rejection of pregnancy and absence of the maternal affective early bond, when combined with mental disorders in parents, is highly predictive risk factors for child abuse and intentional killing babies before 18 months of life. Usually hospital intervention programs focus on the baby and mother health conditions; nonetheless, there is no data and assistance whatsoever of the child and his future living conditions, ignoring alarm violence risk factors. Preventing program has not yet been established predicting child abuse potential, taking control of cases before occurs; however, is a promising resolution that has been ignored or received less attention than models which intervene after maltreatment has been confirmed. This essay concludes that the origin of child abuse by violent mothers occurs during the gestational stage in women emotionally disconnected from their nasciturus under conditions of severe depression and/or anxiety during pregnancy or after childbirth. Nevertheless, with the exclusion of severe psychiatric illnesses, the disturbing emotions derived from the rejection of pregnancy can potentially be reversed through a non-invasive, universal and low-cost hospital procedure. Medical researchers are consistent that mother timely bonding is determinant to anchor affectionate care of her kid. Harrods Buhner [2003] evidences that both mothers and baby hearths produce emotional information which is transferred each other by the umbilical cord, molecularly anchored the meaning of the emotions in both organisms. An obstetric intervention model is suggested to identify neonates at risk as well implementing a bonding cardio-neurocognitive procedure during prenatal, birth moment and post-natal stages to prevent abuse, abandonment or death.
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Biofeedback (BFB) and neurofeedback (NFB) training are two promising approaches for the non-invasive modulation of human physiological activity paired with cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning. In this article, we summarize the state of the art with regard to the efficiency of BFB and NFB studies for the optimization of cognitive performance within a non-clinical context. We review the different training protocols with their underlying theoretical perspectives and the different outcomes regarding cognitive performance. This review showed that BFB and NFB are promising training techniques. However, the use of varying terminology to refer to similar concepts, diverse methodological designs, and cognitive assessments along with apparent differences in NFB frequency ranges makes it difficult to compare the outcomes over different studies and to draw general conclusions. Furthermore, a question largely ignored until now remains about the long-term effects of both training and thus the sustainability of the achieved cognitive enhancement. Despite promising results of both techniques, this overview summarizes the encountered issues and formulates suggestions to solve them in order to be able to provide a definitive answer to the title question: “do biofeedback and neurofeedback work as a cognitive performance enhancement method?”