Office of Undergraduate Research

Heart Rate Variability, Respiration, and Self-reported Affect During Relaxation

The objective of the study is to determine if relaxation, goal-oriented behaviors, and motor movements influence parasympathetic control over heart rate variability. The results of the study may indicate a correlation between slow movements and both positive affect and enhanced vagal control over the heart during relaxation. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three possible conditions: 1) listen to a relaxation training CD recording (Autogenics), 2) watch and listen to a scene of a beach while running their fingers through sand (Movement), or 3) search for shells in a box of sand (Task) while viewing and listening to the same beach scene as in the movement condition. After each phase of the study (baseline, relaxation, and recovery), participants completed the Positive and Negative Affective State questionnaire. Following completion of the study, participants were debriefed and given the opportunity to ask questions regarding the study.

Tasks and responsibilities:

1) Run participants through the study protocol and has been actively involved in both data processing and preparation of the results for presentation (at regional and national conventions). 2) Be responsible for the time-intensive task of processing heart period (interval) data for higher order analysis using Fast Fourier's Transform algorithms to yield indices of low frequency (i.e., sympathetic control) and high frequency (i.e., parasympathetic control) heart rate variability.