Heart Coherence

Article made available by The HeartMath Research Institute, LLC.
Read it in full at www.heartmath.com

Most of us have been taught in school that the heart is constantly responding to “orders” sent by the brain in the form of neural signals. However…

It is not as commonly known that the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart!

Moreover, these heart signals have a significant effect on brain function – influencing emotional processing as well as higher cognitive faculties such as attention, perception, memory, and problem-solving. In other words, not only does the heart respond to the brain, but the brain continuously responds to the heart.

HeartMath research has demonstrated that different patterns of heart activity (which accompany different emotional states) have distinct effects on cognitive and emotional function. During stress and negative emotions, when the heart rhythm pattern is erratic and disordered, the corresponding pattern of neural signals traveling from the heart to the brain inhibits higher cognitive functions.

This limits our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason, and make effective decisions. (This helps explain why we may often act impulsively and unwisely when we’re under stress.) The heart’s input to the brain during stressful or negative emotions also has a profound effect on the brain’s emotional processes—actually serving to reinforce the emotional experience of stress.

In contrast, the more ordered and stable pattern of the heart’s input to the brain during positive emotional states has the opposite effect – it facilitates cognitive function and reinforces positive feelings and emotional stability. This means that learning to generate increased heart rhythm coherence, by sustaining positive emotions, not only benefits the entire body, but also profoundly affects how we perceive, think, feel, and perform.


RESILIENCE FROM THE HEART by Gregg Braden:

In 1991 a team of scientists led Dr. J. Andrew Armour of the University of Montreal discovered that about 40,000 specialized neurons called sensory neurites, from a communication network within the heart itself. And the scientific research specialty of neurocardiology was born.

In simple terms, Armour and his team discovered what has come to be known as the “little brain” in the heart. And it is the specialized neurites that make the little brain possible. In the words of the scientists who make the discovery, “the heart brain is an intricate network of nerves, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells similar to those found in the brain proper.”

A key role of the brain in the heart is to detect changes within the body, such as levels of hormones and other chemicals, and then to communicate those changes to the brain so it can meet our needs accordingly. The heart brain does this by converting the language of the body – chemistry – into the electrical language of the nervous system so that it makes sense to the brain. The heart’s coded messages inform the brain as to when we need more adrenaline in a stressful situation, for example, or when it’s safe to create less adrenaline and focus on building a stronger immune response. Since the little brain in the heart has been recognized, its role in a number of functions not so readily acknowledged in the past have also come to light.

These functions include:

  • Providing the heart-based wisdom known as “heart intelligence”
  • Promoting intentional states of deep intuition
  • Allowing for intentional precognitive abilities
  • Directing the heart’s communication with sensory neurites in other organs in the body

The heart’s little brain has been found to function in two distinct yet related ways.
It can act…

  • …independently of the cranial brain to think, learn, remember, and even sense our inner and outer worlds on its own.
  • …in harmony with the cranial brain to give us the benefit of a single, potent neural network shared by the two separate organs.

Dr. Armour’s discovery has forever changed the way we’ve been taught to think of ourselves. It gives new meaning to what’s possible and what we’re capable of when it comes to the roles played by the heart and the brain in the body. In Dr. Armour’s own words, “It has become clear in recent years that a sophisticated two-way communication occurs between the heart and the brain, with each influencing the other’s function. “


Heart Rhythm Patterns During Different Emotional States

These graphs show examples of real-time heart rate variability patterns (heart rhythms) recorded from individuals experiencing different emotions. The incoherent heart rhythm pattern shown in the top graph, characterized by its irregular, jagged waveform, is typical of stress and negative emotions such as anger, frustration, and anxiety.

The bottom graph shows an example of the coherent heart rhythm pattern that is typically observed when an individual is experiencing a sustained positive emotion, such as appreciation, compassion, or love. The coherent pattern is characterized by its regular, sine-wave-like waveform. It is interesting to note that the overall amount of heart rate variability is actually the same in the two recordings shown below; however, the patterns of the HRV waveforms are clearly different.

Coherence: A State of Optimal Function

The HeartMath Institute’s research has shown that generating sustained positive emotions facilitates a body-wide shift to a specific, scientifically measurable state. This state is termed psychophysiological coherence, because it is characterized by increased order and harmony in both our psychological (mental and emotional) and physiological (bodily) processes.

Psychophysiological coherence is a state of optimal function. Research shows that when we activate this state, our physiological systems function more efficiently, we experience greater emotional stability, and we also have increased mental clarity and improved cognitive function. Simply stated, our body and brain work better, we feel better, and we perform better.

Physiologically, the coherence state is marked by the development of a smooth, sine-wave-like pattern in the heart rate variability trace. This characteristic pattern, called heart rhythm coherence, is the primary indicator of the psychophysiological coherence state, and is what the emWave and Inner Balance technologies measure and quantify.

A number of important physiological changes occur during coherence.

  • The two branches of the Autonomic Nervous System synchronize with one another, and there is an overall shift in autonomic balance toward increased parasympathetic activity (relaxation response).
  • There is also increased physiological entrainment — a number of different bodily systems synchronize to the rhythm generated by the heart (see figure below).
  • Finally, there is increased synchronization between the activity of the heart and brain.
Physiological Entrainment During Coherence

The top graphs show an individual’s heart rate variability, blood pressure rhythm (pulse transit time), and respiration rhythm over a 10-minute period. At the 300-second mark (center dashed line), the individual used HeartMath’s Quick Coherence® technique to activate a feeling of appreciation and shift into the coherence state. At this point, the rhythms of all three systems came into entrainment: notice that the rhythmic patterns are harmonious and synchronized with one another instead of scattered and out-of-sync.

The left side of the graphs shows the spectral analysis of the three physiological rhythms before the shift to coherence. Notice how each pattern looks quite different from the others. The graphs on the right show that in the coherence state the rhythms of all three systems have entrained to oscillate at the same frequency.


Create a coherent state in about a minute with the simple, but powerful steps of the Heart Coherence Technique as created through research by The HeartMath Institute.

Using the power of your heart to balance thoughts and emotions, you can achieve energy, mental clarity and feel better fast anywhere. Use Heart Coherence especially when you begin feeling a draining emotion such as frustration, irritation, anxiety or anger. Find a feeling of ease and inner harmony that’s reflected in more balanced heart rhythms, facilitating brain function and increased emotional intelligence.

This process only takes 2 to 3 minutes and the effects can last up to 6 hours.

Step 1: Heart Focus
Shift your focus into the area of your heart.

This step is a powerful technique unto itself and can be used when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the day’s events or when you simply desire to be more connected with yourself.

Step 2: Slow Your Breathing
As you slow your breathing, you are sending a signal to your body in general, and your heart specifically, that you are in a place that is safe, calm and comfortable.

Step 3: Activate a Positive Feeling
Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. The easiest way to do this is to think of a beautiful place you have been or to think of a very close friend or loved one.

The key in this step is to first create the feeling, to the best of your ability, and then to embrace the feeling, again to the best of your ability.

Your ability to sustain the feeling is what maintains the optimal conversation between your heart and your brain.

Instructions To Download MP3s To Your Computer

iMac:
Press Play Button
When You See The Audio Player
Hold Down Command Key and Press “S” Key

Windows:
Right click on Play Button
Then click “Save Link As…”
When new window opens make sure save type is “MP3 Format Sound”

 

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As with any skill, you’ll find that the more you practice creating coherence between your heart and your brain, the easier it becomes to do so and find that inner balance. And the more you consciously practice this 2-step meditation, the more natural the experience of achieving coherence begins to feel to you.

With the growing level of ease in achieving heart-brain coherence, you’ll also discover your ability to sustain the connection between your heart and your brain for longer periods of time.

Finding inner peace and balance will be something you can begin to cultivate at will, allowing you to be more resilient when conditions in your life become more challenging and stressful. You can practice this technique anywhere and any time.

More Research Findings

In the new field of neurocardiology scientists have discovered that the heart possesses its own intrinsic nervous system — a network of nerves so functionally sophisticated as to earn the description of a “heart brain.” Containing over 40,000 neurons, this “little brain” gives the heart the ability to independently sense, process information, make decisions, and even to demonstrate a type of learning and memory. In essence, it appears that the heart is truly an intelligent system.

Research has also revealed that the heart is a hormonal gland, manufacturing and secreting numerous hormones and neurotransmitters that profoundly affect brain and body function. Among the hormones the heart produces is oxytocin — well known as the “love” or “bonding hormone.”

Science has only begun to understand the effects of the electromagnetic fields produced by the heart, but there is evidence that the information contained in the heart’s powerful field may play a vital synchronizing role in the human body.

Research has also shown that the heart is a key component of the emotional system. Scientists now understand that the heart not only responds to emotion, but that the signals generated by its rhythmic activity actually play a major part in determining the quality of our emotional experience from moment to moment.

As described next, these heart signals also profoundly impact perception and cognitive function by virtue of the heart’s extensive communication network with the brain.

Finally, rigorous electrophysiological studies conducted at the HeartMath Institute have even indicated that the heart appears to play a key role in intuition. Although there is much yet to be understood, it appears that the age-old associations of the heart with thought, feeling, and insight may indeed have a basis in science.

HeartMath products, tools and techniques are based on over 25 years of scientific research conducted at the HeartMath Institute on the psychophysiology of stress, emotions, and the interactions between the heart and brain. There are over 300 peer-reviewed or independent studies utilizing HeartMath techniques or technologies to achieve beneficial outcomes that have been published.

www.HeartMath.com

Article made available by The HeartMath Research Institute, LLC.
Read it in full at www.heartmath.com