Science of the Heart… Heart-Brain Communication….ResilienceStress and Emotions ~ December 2, 2021


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About HeartMath Institute 
HeartMath Institute (HMI) is an innovative nonprofit research and education organization that provides simple, user-friendly mental and emotion self-regulation tools and techniques that people of all ages and cultures can use in the moment to relieve stress and break through to greater levels of personal balance, stability, creativity, intuitive insight and fulfillment. HMI research has formed the foundation for training programs conducted around the world in many different types of populations, including major corporations, government and social-service agencies, all branches of the Armed Forces, schools and universities, hospitals and a wide range of health-care professionals. The tools and technologies developed at HMI offer hope for new, effective solutions to the many daunting problems that society currently faces, beginning with restoring balance and maximizing the potential within each of us. 
HeartMath Institute’s Mission (HMI) 
The mission of HeartMath Institute is to help people bring their physical, mental and emotional systems into balanced alignment with their heart’s intuitive guidance. This unfolds the path for becoming heart-empowered individuals who choose the way of love, which they demonstrate through compassionate care for the well-being of themselves, others and Planet Earth. 
New research shows the human heart is much more than an efficient pump that sustains life. Our research suggests the heart also is an access point to a source of wisdom and intelligence that we can call upon to live our lives with more balance, greater creativity and enhanced intuitive capacities. All of these are important for increasing personal effectiveness, improving health and relationships and achieving greater fulfillment. This overview will explore intriguing aspects of the science of the heart, much of which is still relatively not well known outside the fields of psychophysiology and neurocardiology. We will highlight research that bridges the science of the heart and the highly practical, research-based skill set known as the HeartMath System. The heart has been considered the source of emotion, courage and wisdom for centuries. For more than 25 years, the HeartMath Institute Research Center has explored the physiological mechanisms by which the heart and brain communicate and how the activity of the heart influences our perceptions, emotions, intuition and health. Early on in our research we asked, among other questions, why people experience the feeling or sensation of love and other regenerative emotions as well as heartache in the physical area of the heart. In the early 1990s, we were among the first to conduct research that not only looked at how stressful emotions affect the activity in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the hormonal and immune systems, but also at the effects of emotions such as appreciation, compassion and care. Over the years, we have conducted many studies that have utilized many different physiological measures such as EEG (brain waves), SCL (skin conductance), ECG (heart), BP (blood pressure) and hormone levels, etc. Consistently, however, it was heart rate variability, or heart rhythms that stood out as the most dynamic and reflective indicator of one’s emotional states and, therefore, current stress and cognitive processes. It became clear that stressful or depleting emotions such as frustration and overwhelm lead to increased disorder in the higher-level brain centers and autonomic nervous system and which are reflected in the heart rhythms and adversely affects the functioning of virtually all bodily systems. This eventually led to a much deeper understanding of the neural and other communication pathways between the heart and brain. We also observed that the heart acted as though it had a mind of its own and could significantly influence the way we perceive and respond in our daily interactions. In essence, it appeared that the heart could affect our awareness, perceptions and intelligence. Numerous studies have since shown that heart coherence is an optimal physiological state associated with increased cognitive function, self-regulatory capacity, emotional stability and resilience. We now have a much deeper scientific understanding of many of our original questions that explains how and why heart activity affects mental clarity, creativity, emotional balance, intuition and personal effectiveness. Our and others’ research indicates the heart is far more than a simple pump. The heart is, in fact, a highly complex  information-processing center with its own functional brain, commonly called the heart brain, that communicates with and influences the cranial brain via the nervous system, hormonal system and other pathways. These influences affect brain function and most of the body’s major organs and play an important role in mental and emotional experience and the quality of our lives. In recent years, we have conducted a number of research studies that have explored topics such as the electrophysiology of intuition and the degree to which the heart’s magnetic field, which radiates outside the body, carries information that affects other people and even our pets, and links people together in surprising ways. We also launched the Global Coherence Initiative (GCI), which explores the interconnectivity of humanity with Earth’s magnetic fields. This overview discusses the main findings of our research and the fascinating and important role the heart plays in our personal coherence and the positive changes that occur in health, mental functions, perception, happiness and energy levels as people practice the HeartMath techniques. Practicing the techniques increases heart coherence and one’s ability to self-regulate emotions from a more intuitive, intelligent and balanced inner reference. This also explains how coherence is reflected in our physiology and can be objectively measured. The discussion then expands from physiological coherence to coherence in the context of families, workplaces and communities. Science of the Heart concludes with the perspective that being responsible for and increasing our personal coherence not only improves personal health and happiness, but also feeds into and influences a global field environment. It is postulated that as increasing numbers of people add coherent energy to the global field, it helps strengthen and stabilize mutually beneficial feedback loops between human beings and Earth’s magnetic fields.
Chapter 1Heart-Brain Communication 
The heart communicates with the brain and body in four ways: • Neurological communication (nervous system) • Biochemical communication (hormones) • Biophysical communication (pulse wave) • Energetic communication (electromagnetic fields) Traditionally, the study of communication pathways between the head and heart has been approached from a rather one-sided perspective, with scientists focusing primarily on the heart’s responses to the brain’s commands. We have learned, however, that communication between the heart and brain actually is a dynamic, ongoing, two-way dialogue, with each organ continuously influencing the other’s function. Research has shown that the heart communicates to the brain in four major ways: neurologically (through the transmission of nerve impulses), biochemically (via hormones and neurotransmitters), biophysically (through pressure waves) and energetically (through electromagnetic field interactions). Communication along all these conduits significantly affects the brain’s activity. Moreover, our research shows that messages the heart sends to the brain also can affect performance.Some of the first researchers in the field of psychophysiology to examine the interactions between the heart and brain were John and Beatrice Lacey. During 20 years of research throughout the 1960s and ’70s, they observed that the heart communicates with the brain in ways that significantly affect how we perceive and react to the world. In physiologist and researcher Walter Bradford Cannon’s view, when we are aroused, the mobilizing part of the nervous system (sympathetic) energizes us for fight or flight, which is indicated by an increase in heart rate, and in more quiescent moments, the calming part of the nervous system (parasympathetic) calms us down and slows the heart rate. Cannon believed the autonomic nervous system and all of the related physiological responses moved in concert with the brain’s response to any given stimulus or challenge. Presumably, all of our inner systems are activated together when we are aroused and calm down together when we are at rest and the brain is in control of the entire process. Cannon also introduced the concept of homeostasis. Since then, the study of physiology has been based on the principle that all cells, tissues and organs strive to maintain a static or constant steady-state condition. However, with the introduction of signal-processing technologies that can acquire continuous data over time from physiological processes such as heart rate (HR), blood pressure (BP) and nerve activity, it has become abundantly apparent that biological processes vary in complex and nonlinear ways, even during so-called steady-state conditions. These observations have led to the understanding that healthy, optimal function is a result of continuous, dynamic, bidirectional interactions among multiple neural, hormonal and mechanical control systems at both local and central levels. In concert, these dynamic and interconnected physiological and psychological regulatory systems are never truly at rest and are certainly never static. For example, we now know that the normal resting rhythm of the heart is highly variable rather than monotonously regular, which was the widespread notion for many years. This will be discussed further in the section on heart rate variability (HRV). 
Figure 1.1 Innervation of the major organs by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Parasympathetic fibers are primarily in the vagus nerves, but some that regulate subdiaphragmatic organs travel through the spinal cord. The sympathetic fibers also travel through the spinal cord. A number of health problems can arise in part because of improper function of the ANS. Emotions can affect activity in both branches of the ANS. For example, anger causes increased sympathetic activity while many relaxation techniques increase parasympathetic activity. The Laceys noticed that the model proposed by Cannon only partially matched actual physiological behavior. As their research evolved, they found that the heart in particular seemed to have its own logic that frequently diverged from the direction of autonomic nervous system activity. The heart was behaving as though it had a mind of its own. Furthermore, the heart appeared to be sending meaningful messages to the brain that the brain not only understood, but also obeyed. Even more intriguing was that it looked as though these messages could affect a person’s perceptions, behavior and performance. The Laceys identified a neural pathway and mechanism whereby input from the heart to the brain could inhibit or facilitate the brain’s electrical activity. Then in 1974, French researchers stimulated the vagus nerve (which carries many of the signals from the heart to the brain) in cats and found that the brain’s electrical response was reduced to about half its normal rate.[1] This suggested that the heart and nervous system were not simply following the brain’s directions, as Cannon had thought. Rather, the autonomic nervous system and the communication between the heart and brain were much more complex, and the heart seemed to have its own type of logic and acted independently of the signals sent from the brain. While the Laceys research focused on activity occurring within a single cardiac cycle, they also were able to confirm that cardiovascular activity influences perception and cognitive performance, but there were still some inconsistencies in the results. These inconsistencies were resolved in Germany by Velden and Wölk, who later demonstrated that cognitive performance fluctuated at a rhythm around 10 hertz throughout the cardiac cycle. They showed that the modulation of cortical function resulted from ascending cardiovascular inputs on neurons in the thalamus, which globally synchronizes cortical activity.[2, 3] An important aspect of their work was the finding that it is the pattern and stability of the heart’s rhythm of the afferent (ascending) inputs, rather than the number of neural bursts within the cardiac cycle, that are important in modulating thalamic activity, which in turn has global effects on brain function. There has since been a growing body of research indicating that afferent information processed by the intrinsic cardiac nervous system (heart-brain) can influence activity in the fronto cortical areas[4-6] and motor cortex,[7] affecting psychological factors such as attention level, motivation,[8] perceptual sensitivity[9] and emotional processing.[10] 
Neurocardiology: The Brain On the Heart 
While the Laceys were conducting their research in psychophysiology, a small group of cardiologists joined forces with a group of neurophysiologists and neuroanatomists to explore areas of mutual interest. This represented the beginning of the new discipline now called neurocardiology. One of their early findings is that the heart has a complex neural network that is sufficiently extensive to be characterized as a brain on the heart (Figure 1.2).[11, 12] The heart-brain, as it is commonly called, or intrinsic cardiac nervous system, is an intricate network of complex ganglia, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells, the same as those of the brain in the head. The heart-brain’s neural circuitry enables it to act independently of the cranial brain to learn, remember, make decisions and even feel and sense. Descending activity from the brain in the head via the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the ANS is integrated into the heart’s intrinsic nervous system along with signals arising from sensory neurons in the heart that detect pressure, heart rate, heart rhythm and hormones. The anatomy and functions of the intrinsic cardiac nervous system and its connections with the brain have been explored extensively by neuro-cardiologists.[13, 14] In terms of heart-brain communication, it is generally well-known that the efferent (descending) pathways in the autonomic nervous system are involved in the regulation of the heart. However, it is less appreciated that the majority of fibers in the vagus nerves are afferent (ascending) in nature. Furthermore, more of these ascending neural pathways are related to the heart (and cardiovascular system) than to any other organ.[15] This means the heart sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. More recent research shows that the neural interactions between the heart and brain are more complex than previously thought. In addition, the intrinsic cardiac nervous system has both short-term and long-term memory functions and can operate independently of central neuronal command. 
Figure 1.2. Microscopic image of interconnected intrinsic cardiac ganglia in the human heart. The thin, light-blue structures are multiple axons that connect the ganglia. Courtesy of Dr. J. Andrew Armour. 
Once information has been processed by the heart’s intrinsic nervous system, the appropriate signals are sent to the heart’s sinoatrial node and to other tissues in the heart. Thus, under normal physiological conditions, the heart’s intrinsic nervous system plays an important role in much of the routine control of cardiac function, independent of the central nervous system. The heart’s intrinsic nervous system is vital for the maintenance of cardiovascular stability and efficiency and without it, the heart cannot function properly. The neural output, or messages from the intrinsic cardiac nervous system travels to the brain via ascending pathways in the both the spinal column and vagus nerves, where it travels to the medulla, hypothalamus, thalamus and amygdala and then to the cerebral cortex.[5, 16, 17] The nervous-system pathways between the heart and brain are shown in Figure 1.3 and the primary afferent pathways in the brain are shown in Figure 1.4.Had the existence of the intrinsic cardiac nervous system and the complexity of the neural communication between the heart and brain been known while the Laceys were conducting their paradigm-shifting research, their theories and data likely would have been accepted far sooner. Their insight, rigorous experimentation and courage to follow where the data led them, even though it did not fit the well-entrenched beliefs of the scientific community of their day, were pivotal in the understanding of the heart-brain connection. Their research played an important role in elucidating the basic physiological and psychological processes that connect the heart and brain and the mind and body. In 1977, Dr. Francis Waldropin, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, stated in a review article of the Laceys’ work, “Their intricate and careful procedures, combined with their daring theories, have produced work that has stirred controversy as well as promise. In the long run, their research may tell us much about what makes each of us a whole person and may suggest techniques that can restore a distressed person to health.” 
Figure 1.3. The neural communication pathways interacting between the heart and brain are responsible for the generation of HRV. The intrinsic cardiac nervous system integrates information from the extrinsic nervous system and the sensory neurites within the heart. The extrinsic cardiac ganglia located in the thoracic cavity have connections to the lungs and esophagus and are indirectly connected via the spinal cord to many other organs, including the skin and arteries. The vagus nerve (parasympathetic) primarily consists of afferent (flowing to the brain) fibers that connect to the medulla. The sympathetic afferent nerves first connect to the extrinsic cardiac ganglia (also a processing center), then to the dorsal root ganglion and the spinal cord. Once afferent signals reach the medulla, they travel to the subcortical areas (thalamus, amygdala, etc.) and then the higher cortical areas.
Figure 1.4. Diagram of the currently known afferent pathways by which information from the heart and cardiovascular system modulates brain activity. Note the direct connections from the NTS to the amygdala, hypothalamus and thalamus. Although not shown, there also is evidence emerging that there is a pathway from the dorsal vagal complex that travels directly to the frontal cortex. 
The Heart as a Hormonal Gland In addition to its extensive neurological interactions, the heart also communicates with the brain and body biochemically by way of the hormones it produces. Although not typically thought of as an endocrine gland, the heart actually manufactures and secretes a number of hormones and neurotransmitters that have a wide-ranging impact on the body as a whole. The heart was reclassified as part of the hormonal system in 1983, when a new hormone produced and secreted by the atria of the heart was discovered. This hormone has been called by several different names – atrial natriuretic factor (ANF), atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and atrial peptide. Nicknamed the balance hormone, it plays an important role in fluid and electrolyte balance and helps regulate the blood vessels, kidneys, adrenal glands and many regulatory centers in the brain.[18] Increased atrial peptide inhibits the release of stress hormones,[19] reduces sympathetic outflow[20] and appears to interact with the immune system.[21] Even more intriguing, experiments suggest atrial peptide can influence motivation and behavior.[22
It was later discovered the heart contains cells that synthesize and release catecholamines (norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine), which are neurotransmitters once thought to be produced only by neurons in the brain and ganglia.[23] More recently, it was discovered the heart also manufactures and secretes oxytocin, which can act as a neurotransmitter and commonly is referred to as the love or social bonding hormone. Beyond its well-known functions in childbirth and lactation, oxytocin also has been shown to be involved in cognition, tolerance, trust and friendship and the establishment of enduring pair-bonds. Remarkably, concentrations of oxytocin produced in the heart are in the same range as those produced in the brain.[24] 
Chapter 2Resilience, Stress and Emotions
As far back as the middle of the last century, it was recognized that the heart, overtaxed by constant emotional influences or excessive physical effort and thus deprived of its appropriate rest, suffers disorders of function and becomes vulnerable to disease.[25]An early editorial on the relationships between stress and the heart accepted the proposition that in about half of patients, strong emotional upsets precipitated heart failure. Unspecified negative emotional arousal, often described as stress, distress or upset, has been associated with a variety of pathological conditions, including hypertension,[26, 27] silent myocardial ischemia,[28] sudden cardiac death,[29] coronary disease,[30-32] cardiac arrhythmia,[33] sleep disorders,[34] metabolic syndrome,[35] diabetes,[36, 37] neurodegenerative diseases,[38] fatigue[39, 40] and many other disorders.[41] Stress and negative emotions have been shown to increase disease severity and worsen prognosis for individuals suffering from a number of different pathologies.[42, 43] On the other hand, positive emotions and effective emotion self-regulation skills have been shown to prolong health and significantly reduce premature mortality.[44-49] From a psychophysiological perspective, emotions are central to the experience of stress. It is the feelings of anxiety, irritation, frustration, lack of control, and hopelessness that are actually what we experience when we describe ourselves as stressed. Whether it’s a minor inconvenience or a major life change, situations are experienced as stressful to the extent that they trigger emotions such as annoyance, irritation, anxiety and overwhelm.[50] In essence, stress is emotional unease, the experience of which ranges from low-grade feelings of emotional unrest to intense inner turmoil. Stressful emotions clearly can arise in response to external challenges or events, and also from ongoing internal dialogs and attitudes. Recurring feelings of worry, anxiety, anger, judgment, resentment, impatience, overwhelm and self-doubt often consume a large part of our energy and dull our day-to-day life experiences. Additionally, emotions, much more so than thoughts alone, activate the physiological changes comprising the stress response. Our research shows a purely mental activity such as cognitively recalling a past situation that provoked anger does not produce nearly as profound an effect on physiological processes as actually engaging the emotion associated with that memory. In other words, reexperiencing the feeling of anger provoked by the memory has a greater effect than thinking about it.[51, 52] Resilience and Emotion Self-Regulation Our emotions infuse life with a rich texture and transform our conscious experience into a meaningful living experience. Emotions determine what we care about and what motivates us. They connect us to others and give us the courage to do what needs to be done, to appreciate our successes, to protect and support the people we love and have compassion and kindness for those who are in need of our help. Emotions are also what allow us to experience the pain and grief of loss. Without emotions, life would lack meaning and purpose. Emotions and resilience are closely related because emotions are the primary drivers of many key physiological processes involved in energy regulation. We define resilience as the capacity to prepare for, recover from and adapt in the face of stress, adversity, trauma or challenge. [53] Therefore, it follows that a key to sustaining good health, optimal function and resilience is the ability to manage one’s emotions. It has been suggested that resilience should be considered as a state rather than a trait and that a person’s resilience can vary over time as demands, circumstances and level of maturity change.[54] In our resilience training programs, we suggest that the ability to build and sustain resilience is related to self-management and efficient utilization of energy resources across four domains: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual (Figure 2.1). Physical resilience is basically reflected in physical flexibility, endurance and strength, while emotional resilience is reflected in the ability to self-regulate, degree of emotional flexibility, positive outlook and supportive relationships. Mental resilience is reflected in the ability to sustain focus and attention, mental flexibility and the capacity for integrating multiple points of view. Spiritual resilience is typically associated with commitment to core values, intuition and tolerance of others’ values and beliefs.
Figure 2.1. Domains of Resilience.
By learning self-regulation techniques that allow us to shift our physiology into a more coherent state, the increased physiological efficiency and alignment of the mental and emotional systems accumulates resilience (energy) across all four energetic domains. Having a high level of resilience is important not only for bouncing back from challenging situations, but also for preventing unnecessary stress reactions (frustration, impatience, anxiety), which often lead to further energy and time waste and deplete our physical and psychological resources. Most people would agree it is the ability to adjust and self-regulate one’s responses and behavior that is most important in building and maintaining supportive, loving relationships and effectively meeting life’s demands with composure, consistency and integrity.  The ability to adjust and self-regulate also is central to resilience, good health and effective decision-making. [55] It is a key for success in living life with greater kindness and compassion in all relationships. If people’s capacity for intelligent, self-directed regulation is strong enough, then regardless of inclinations, past experiences or personality traits, they usually can do the adaptive or right thing in most situations.[56] 
We are coming to understand health not as the absence of disease, but rather as the process by which individuals maintain their sense of coherence (i.e. sense that life is comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful) and ability to function in the face of changes in themselves and their relationships with their environment.[57] 
It has been shown that our efforts to self-regulate emotions can produce broad improvements in increasing or strengthening self-regulatory capacity, similar to the process of strengthening a muscle, making us less vulnerable to depletion of our internal reserves.[56] When internal energy reserves are depleted, normal capacity to maintain self-control is weakened, which can lead to increased stress, inappropriate behaviors, lost opportunities, poor communication and damaged relationships. Despite the importance of self-directed control, many people’s ability to self-regulate is far less than ideal. In fact, failures in self-regulation, especially of emotions and attitudes, arguably are central to the vast majority of personal and social problems that plague modern societies. For some, the lack of self-regulatory capacity can be attributed to immaturity or failure to acquire skills while for others it can be the result of trauma or impairment in the neural systems that underlie one’s ability to self-regulate.[58] Therefore, we submit the most important skill the majority of people need to learn is how to increase their capacity to self-regulate emotions, attitudes and behaviors. Self-regulation enables people to mature and meet the challenges and stresses of everyday life with resilience so they can make more intelligent decisions by aligning with their innate higher-order wisdom and expression of care and compassion, elements we often associate with living a more conscientious life. Our research suggests a new inner baseline reference can be established by using the HeartMath (HM) self-regulation techniques that help people replace depleting emotional undercurrents with more positive, regenerative attitudes, feelings and perceptions.This new baseline, which will be summarized in a later section, can be thought of as a type of implicit memory that organizes perception, feelings and behavior.[5, 59] The process of establishing a new baseline takes place at the physiological level, which is imperative for sustained and lasting change to occur.A growing body of compelling scientific evidence is demonstrating a link between mental and emotional attitudes, physiological health and long-term well-being: 60% to 80% of primary care doctor visits are related to stress, yet only 3% of patients receive stress management help.[60-62] In a study of 5,716 middle-aged people, those with the highest self-regulation abilities were over 50 times more likely to be alive and without chronic disease 15 years later than those with the lowest self-regulation scores.[63] Positive emotions are a reliable predictor of better health, even for those without food or shelter while negative emotions are a reliable predictor of worse health even when basic needs like food, shelter and safety are met.[64] A Harvard Medical School Study of 1,623 heart attack survivors found that when subjects became angry during emotional conflicts, their risk of subsequent heart attacks was more than double that of those who remained calm.[65] A review of 225 studies concluded that positive emotions promote and foster sociability and activity, altruism, strong bodies and immune systems, effective conflict resolution skills, success and thriving.[66] A study of elderly nuns found that those who expressed the most positive emotions in early adulthood lived an average of 10 years longer.[67] Men who complain of high anxiety are up to six times more likely than calmer men to suffer sudden cardiac death.[68] In a groundbreaking study of 1,200 people at high risk of poor health, those who learned to alter unhealthy mental and emotional attitudes through self-regulation training were over four times more likely to be alive 13 years later than an equal-sized control group.[69] A 20-year study of over 1,700 older men conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that worry about social conditions, health and personal finances all significantly increased the risk of coronary heart disease.[70] Over one-half of heart disease cases are not explained by the standard risk factors such as high cholesterol, smoking or sedentary lifestyle.[71] An international study of 2,829 people ages 55 to 85 found that individuals who reported the highest levels of personal mastery – feelings of control over life events – had a nearly 60% lower risk of than those who felt relatively helpless in the face of life’s challenges.[72] According to a Mayo Clinic study of individuals with heart disease, psychological stress was the strongest predictor of future cardiac events such as cardiac death, cardiac arrest and heart attacks.[73] Three 10-year studies concluded that emotional stress was more predictive of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease than from smoking; people who were unable to effectively manage their stress had a 40% higher death rate than non-stressed individuals.[74] A study of heart attack survivors showed that patients’ emotional states and relationships in the period after myocardial infarction were as important as the disease severity in determining their prognosis.[75] Separate studies showed that the risk of developing heart disease is significantly increased for people who impulsively vent their anger as well as for those who tend to repress angry feelings.[76, 77]Cognitive and Emotional System Integration Dating back to the ancient Greeks, human thinking and feeling, intellect and emotion have been considered separate functions. These contrasting aspects of the soul, as the Greeks called them, often have been portrayed as being engaged in a constant battle for control of the human psyche. In Plato’s view, emotions were like wild horses that had to be reined in by the intellect and willpower. Research in neuroscience confirms that emotion and cognition can best be thought of as separate but interacting functions and systems that communicate via bidirectional neural connections between the neocortex, the body and emotional centers such as the amygdala and body.[78] These connections allow emotion-related input to modulate cortical activity while cognitive input from the cortex modulates emotional processing. However, the neural connections that transmit information from the emotional centers to the cognitive centers in the brain are stronger and more numerous than those that convey information from the cognitive to the emotional centers. This fundamental asymmetry accounts for the powerful influence of input from the emotional system on cognitive functions such as attention, perception and memory as well as higher-order thought processes. Conversely, the comparatively limited influence of input from the cognitive system on emotional processing helps explain why it is generally difficult to willfully modulate emotions through thought alone. There can be differences from one individual to the next in these reciprocal connections and interactions between the cognitive and emotional systems that affect the way we perceive, experience and eventually remember our emotional experiences, and how we respond to emotionally challenging situations. Unbalanced interactions between the emotional and cognitive systems can lead to devastating effects such as those observed in mood and anxiety disorders.[78] Although there has been a historical bias favoring the viewpoint that emotions interfere with and can be at odds with rational thinking, which of course can occur in some cases, emotions have their own type of rationality and have been shown to be critical in decision-making.[79] For example, Damasio points out, patients with damage in areas of the brain that integrate the emotional and cognitive systems can no longer effectively function in the day-to-day world, even though their mental abilities are perfectly normal. In the mid-1990s, the concept of emotional intelligence was introduced, precipitating persuasive arguments that the viewpoint of human intelligence being essentially mind intellect was far too narrow. This was because it ignored a range of human capacities that bear equal if not greater weight in determining our successes in life. Qualities such as self-awareness, motivation, altruism and compassion, but especially one’s ability to self-regulate and control impulses and self-direct emotions were found to be as important or more important than a high IQ. Those qualities, more so than IQ, enable people to excel in the face of life’s challenges.[80] It is our experience that the degree of alignment between the mind and emotions can vary considerably. When they are out of sync, it can result in radical behavior changes that cause us to feel like there are two different people inside the same body. It can also result in confusion, difficulty in making decisions, anxiety and a lack of alignment with our deeper core values. Conversely, when the mind and emotions are in sync, we are more self-secure and aligned with our deeper core values and respond to stressful situations with increased resilience and inner balance. Our research indicates that the key to the successful integration of the mind and emotions lies in increasing one’s emotional self-awareness and the coherence of, or harmonious function and interaction among, the neural systems that underlie cognitive and emotional experience.[5, 58, 81] As will be discussed in more detail in a later section, we use the terms cardiac coherence, physiological coherence and heart coherence interchangeably to describe the measurement of the order, stability and harmony in the oscillatory outputs of the body’s regulatory systems during any period of time. An important aspect of understanding how to increase self-regulatory capacity and the balance between the cognitive and emotional systems is the inclusion of the heart’s ascending neuronal inputs on subcortical (emotional) and cortical (cognitive) structures which, as discussed above, can have significant influences on cognitive resources and emotions. Information is conveyed in the patterns of the heart’s rhythms (HRV), that reflects current emotional states. The patterns of afferent neural input (coherence and incoherence) to the brain affect emotional experience and modulate cortical function and self-regulatory capacity. We have found that intentional activation of positive emotions plays an important role in increasing cardiac coherence and thus self-regulatory capacity.[5] These findings expand on a large body of research into the ways positive emotional states can benefit physical, mental and emotional health.[44-49] Because emotions exert such a powerful influence on cognitive activity, intervening at the emotional level is often the most efficient way to initiate change in mental patterns and processes. Our research demonstrates that the application of emotion self-regulation techniques along with the use of facilitative technology (emWave®, Inner Balance™) can help people bring the heart, mind and emotions into greater alignment. Greater alignment is associated with improved decision-making, creativity, listening ability, reaction times and coordination and mental clarity.[81] For further reading on the subject you go here
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By cindyloucbp

Cynthia is the typical Pisces! Her left brain activities include scientific activities in the hospital laboratory as a director. Her right-brain activites show as a painter, photographer and musician. She is known as the scientist who sings!

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