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The Science Behind HeartMath and Heart Rhythms

The heart is a primary generator of rhythmic patterns in the human body, and possesses a far more extensive communication system with the brain than do other major organs. In addition, the heart plays a particularly important role in the generation of emotion. With every heart beat, the heart transmits complex patterns of neurological, hormonal, pressure, and electromagnetic information to the brain and throughout the body. As a critical nodal point in many interacting systems - physiological, cognitive and emotional - the heart is uniquely positioned as a powerful entry point into the communication network that connects body, mind, emotions and spirit.

Doc Childre and the research team at the Institute of HeartMath (IHM) have shown that techniques which combine intentional heart focus with the generation of sustained positive feelings lead to a beneficial mode of physiological function they have termed psychophysiological coherence. Correlates of psychophysiological coherence include a sine wave-like pattern in the heart rhythms, increased heart-brain synchronization (alpha rhythms become more synchronized to the heart) and entrainment between heart rhythm patterns, respiration, blood pressure rhythms and other physiological systems. Although psychophysiological coherence is a natural state that can occur spontaneously while people are feeling genuine positive emotions and during sleep, sustained periods are generally rare.

During states of psychophysiological coherence, our inner systems function with a higher degree of synchronization, efficiency and harmony which correlates with improved emotional balance, quality of emotional experience, health, and cognitive performance. HeartMath studies conducted across diverse populations have associated increased psychophysiological coherence with reduced anxiety and depression, decreased physical symptoms negative effects of stress, enhanced immunity, reduced cortisol and increased DHEA.1-5 IHM has collaborated with Stanford University and other institutions in studies which have shown that heart centered techniques and psychophysiological coherence facilitate the body's healing processes and improve physical health outcomes. For example, improvements in clinical status have been demonstrated in individuals with hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, asthma and AIDS.6-10

The emWave Technology, is a unique heart rhythm coherence training program. It objectively monitors your heart rhythms and confirms when you are in the coherence mode. It helps you learn to self-generate coherence and track your progress. With practice you learn how to shift into coherence at will, even in difficult situations which previously would have drained your emotional vitality and buoyancy. You will readily see and experience changes in your heart rhythm patterns as you practice emotional stress management techniques. Your heart rhythms generally become less irregular, and sine wave-like as you send more heart-felt love and appreciation through your system.

Get more in-depth research information on stress, heart rate variability and psychophysiological coherence.


1. McCraty, R., Barrios-Choplin, B., Rozman, D., Atkinson, M. and Watkins, A. The impact of a new emotional self-management program on stress, emotions, heart rate variability, DHEA and cortisol. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science. 1998; 33(2):151-170.

2. McCraty, R. HeartMath learning enhancement programs improve academic performance and behavior in school children. In: Proceedings of the Futurehealth Winter Brain Meeting. Miami, FL, 2001.

3. Barrios-Choplin, B., McCraty, R. and Cryer, B. An inner quality approach to reducing stress and improving physical and emotional wellbeing at work. Stress Medicine. 1997; 13:193-201.

4. McCraty, R., Tomasino, D., Atkinson, M. and Sundram, J. Impact of the HeartMath self-management skills program on physiological and psychological stress in police officers. Boulder Creek, CA: HeartMath Research Center, Institute of HeartMath, Publication No. 99-075.

5. Rein, G., Atkinson, M. and McCraty, R. The physiological and psychological effects of compassion and anger. Journal of Advancement in Medicine. 1995; 8(2):87-105.

6. McCraty, R., Atkinson, M. and Tomasino, D. HeartMath risk reduction program reduces blood pressure and improves psychological well-being in individuals with hypertension. Manuscript in preparation.

7. McCraty, R., Atkinson, M. and Lipsenthal, L. Emotional self-regulation program enhances psychological health and quality of life in patients with diabetes. Manuscript in preparation.

8. Luskin, F., Reitz, M. and Newell, K. Pilot study of a group stress management training on elderly patients with congestive heart failure. Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation. 2000; 20(5):303.

9. Rozman, D., Whitaker, R., Beckman, T. and Jones, D. A pilot intervention program which reduces psychological symptomatology in individuals with human immunodeficiency virus. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 1996; 4:226-232.

10. Lehrer, P., Smetankin, A. and Potapova, T. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia biofeedback therapy for asthma: A report of 20 unmedicated pediatric cases. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. 2000; 25(3):193-200

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