Heart rate variability biofeedback: how and why does it work?

Front Psychol. 2014 Jul 21;5:756. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00756. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

In recent years there has been substantial support for heart rate variability biofeedback (HRVB) as a treatment for a variety of disorders and for performance enhancement (Gevirtz, 2013). Since conditions as widely varied as asthma and depression seem to respond to this form of cardiorespiratory feedback training, the issue of possible mechanisms becomes more salient. The most supported possible mechanism is the strengthening of homeostasis in the baroreceptor (Vaschillo et al., 2002; Lehrer et al., 2003). Recently, the effect on the vagal afferent pathway to the frontal cortical areas has been proposed. In this article, we review these and other possible mechanisms that might explain the positive effects of HRVB.

Keywords: baroreflex; biofeedback; heart rate variability; homeostasis; resonance.