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Neuromodulation Applied to Diseases: The Case of HRV Biofeedback
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
The vagus or "wandering" nerve is the main branch of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), innervating most internal organs crucial for health. Activity of the vagus nerve can be non-invasively indexed by heart-rate variability parameters (HRV). Specific HRV parameters predict less all-cause mortality, lower risk of and better prognosis after myocardial infarctions, and better survival in cancer. A non-invasive manner for self-activating the vagus is achieved by performing a slow-paced breathing technique while receiving visual feedback of one's HRV, called HRV-biofeedback (HRV-B). This article narratively reviews the biological mechanisms underlying the role of vagal activity and vagally mediated HRV in hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease (CHD), cancer, pain, and dementia. After searching the literature for HRV-B intervention studies in each condition, we report the effects of HRV-B on clinical outcomes in these health conditions, while evaluating the methodological quality of these studies. Generally, the levels of evidence for the benefits of HRV-B is high in CHD, pain, and hypertension, moderate in cancer, and poor in diabetes and dementia. Limitations and future research directions are discussed.
Journal: Journal of Clinical Medicine
- See also: Neuromodulation Applied to Diseases