• Luli Faber

The Science of the Heart

HeartMath (https://www.heartmath.org/) is a research institute (HMI) in the US that is in interested in the interactions between the heart, the brain, the interconnectedness of people, and how people connect and interact with the environment. It's been doing some really interesting research since 1991.

The basis for much of their research stems from two major observations.

Firstly, scientific observations that the heart sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart, lending support for emotions being more domininant than the mind in decision making, and many other areas of life. (I believe their dominant in all areas of life.)

Secondly, the heart gives out a large electromagnetic field that spans several meters, compared to the brain's electromagnetic field, that spans only centimeters.

They then use their research to develop practices, such as self-regulation, to reduce stress and anxiety.

One of the reasons for their interest in emotional wellbeing is that they understand the importance of emotions in physical health, as illustrated in this image taken from their recent publication, "The Science of the Heart Volume 2":

I don't necessarily agree with their approach of using meditative-like practices to alleviate anxiety and stress, as I feel the emotions need to be felt to be released, rather than managed. However I find their research really inspiring, and a lot of what they have shown is the basis of what I would like to investigate futher with my research, but looking more deeply at the role of emotions in interconnectedness.

Here are some of their findings.

They have focused a lot of their research on a measure called heart rate variability (HRV). While the heart beats on average about 60 times a minute, there isn't the same delay between each heart beat. In other words, there is variability in the heart beat pattern. Analysis of this variation, called heart rate variability, gives information about the autonomic nervous system functioning within the body, as well as gives biological readouts of the emotional state of the person, as indicated in the below image.

Negative emotions such as frustration and anxiety cause an irregular pattern of heart rate variability (upper panel), whereas positive emotions such as love cause a smooth and regular pattern of heart beats (lower panel). This pattern is called coherence.

The coherent pattern is linked with significantly greater health outcomes than the irregular pattern.

The HeartMath Institute have looked at the interconnectness between people, by examining whether the electrical activity of a heart beat in one person is detected in the electrical activity of another person's brain waves, and they found that this is regularly found to be the case when the two people hold hands:

When there was no contact between two people (left panels), the heart beat (electrocardiograpm; ECG, lower trace) of subject B was not detected in the brainwaves (EEG, upper trace) of subject A.

However when the two subjects held hands, the heart beat of one subject could be observed in the other's brainwaves (right panels).

I found this amazing! I think it may be one biological readout of the emotional communication between people.

They also found that when the heart beat of one subject, subject 1 shown on the left, could trigger alpha waves in the brain of a second subject, subject 2, when the two people were not touching.

Alpha waves are associated with a more relaxed state of feeling.

This was most readily seen when the subject whose brain was being measured was in a positive emotional state, with a coherent heart wave variability pattern (bottom panel).

These findings provide scientific evidence to suggest that when we are in a more positive emotional state, we are more open to being connected to others.

I found this finding amazing too!

Hopefully you have found these results of interest as well.


All the images shown are taken from the HeartMath Institute's recent publication, "The Science of the Heart Volume 2". (https://www.heartmath.org/research/science-of-the-heart/details/)

#HeartMath #heartelectromagnetism #heart #brain #heartdisease #emotions #interconnectedness #EEG