Effect of relaxation on working memory and the Bispectral Index of the EEG

Psychol Rep. 2004 Aug;95(1):53-70. doi: 10.2466/pr0.95.1.53-70.


Beneficial effects of relaxation on cardiovascular and immune functions and on memory has been implied but an empirical relationship between task performance and anxiety reduction has not been reported. In this study, we investigated whether guided imagery of relatively short duration would decrease S-Anxiety and electroencephalogram Bispectral Index and improve working memory. 42 participants (age: M=39, SD=11, 14 men, 28 women, university students and VA Medical Center employees, recruited by their professor or by fellow employees) underwent relaxation by 16-min. guided imagery or no treatment (control). Spielberger's State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and the WAIS-III Letter-Number Sequencing Test were administered before and after relaxation. S-Anxiety and BIS Index decreased and the Letter-Number test score increased by 30% after relaxation but not in the control group. This score was higher for participants with low anxiety and BIS Index. There was no significant difference between the groups before treatment. The results suggest that guided imagery of short duration produces relaxation as measured by psychological and neurophysiological indices and improves working memory performance.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Personality Inventory
  • Relaxation / physiology*
  • Serial Learning / physiology
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted