Can we enhance the brain’s emotion regulation capacity with a 5-week heart rate variability biofeedback intervention? (Distinguished Lecturer Dr. Mara Mather- Univ. of Southern California)



Ripperton, Dana


event sponsored by

Center for Cognitive Neuroscience &

Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS)


CCN Colloquium


Dr. Mara Mather

The Center for Cognitive Neuroscience Colloquium Series welcomes Distinguished Lecturer, Dr. Mara Mather from the Univ. of Southern California. Heart rate variability is a robust biomarker of emotional well-being, consistent with the shared regulatory brain networks supporting these outcomes. While high heart rate oscillatory activity clearly indicates healthy regulatory brain systems, can it also enhance brain function? To test this possibility, we conducted 5-week interventions with 100 younger adult participants involving daily biofeedback that increased heart rate oscillations (Osc+) or that had little effect on heart rate oscillations (Osc-) and examined effects on brain activity during rest and during regulating emotion. In this healthy cohort, the two conditions did not differentially affect anxiety, depression or mood. However, the Osc+ intervention increased low-frequency heart rate variability and increased brain oscillatory dynamics and functional connectivity in emotion-related resting-state networks. It also increased down-regulation of activity in somatosensory brain regions during an emotion regulation task. The Osc- intervention did not have these effects. These findings indicate that heart rate oscillatory activity not only reflects the current state of regulatory brain systems but also changes how the brain operates beyond the moments of high oscillatory activity.


Panel/Seminar/Colloquium, and Research