Large Magnitude Voluntary Heart Rate Changes


  • This research was conducted at Duke University Medical Center under NIMH Grant 2 R01–11549 to Ben W. Feather, M.D., Ph.D., for whose advice and encouragement the author is indebted. The author also wishes to thank Mr. Edward Walter for computer programming of statistical analyses and Mr. Joseph Burch for his assistance with the electronic equipment used in this study.

Address requests for reprints to: David T. Wells, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, Baltimore City Hospitals, 4940 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21224.


An experiment was performed to demonstrate methods for enabling subjects (Ss) to produce large magnitude heart rate (HR) changes under conditions which include adequate controls for basal HR changes and elicitation of the HR response by breathing changes. The methods used were an attempt to optimize motivational, feedback, and practice variables. Of 9 Ss, 6 displayed mean HR increases ranging from 16.7 bpm to 35.2 bpm. The greatest mean HR decrease for any S was 3.1 bpm. Control procedures indicated that breathing changes accompanying large increases in HR were not sufficient to account for the magnitude of HR change.