Two members of the Saybrook School of Mind-Body Medicine faculty presented a workshop on September 16 and 17, 2013 at the annual meeting of the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research. Dr. Donald Moss is Chair of the School of Mind-Body Medicine, and Dr. Fredric Shaffer is a part time instructor at Saybrook and a Professor at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. Shaffer is also chair of the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance, which certifies health care professionals for completing basic training and skills mastery in biofeedback, Neurofeedback, pelvic floor disorders, and heart rate variability biofeedback. Moss is the chair of the BCIA international certification committee, and serves on the BCIA Board,
Drs. Shaffer and Moss taught a 15 hour two-day “Certificate of Completion” workshop on heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback. HRV training is the newest arrival in the biofeedback world. For 30 or more years, medical research has recognized that heart rate variability was an index for health and disease, predicting, for example, which survivors of heart attack were most likely to survive long term, and predicting which infants were most at risk for sudden infant deaths syndrome (SIDS).
It turns out that human beings suffering with a wide variety of medical and emotional disorders, from anxiety to depression to PTSD to asthma to fibromyalgia to cardiovascular disorders, suffer from lowered or suppressed variability of their heart rate. Low HRV seems to be an indication of autonomic nervous system dysregulation and ill health. In contrast, healthy athletic human beings exhibit higher than average heart rate variability. Members of the Russian cosmonaut program, and members of the World-cup winning Milan soccer team, were able with training to produce oscillations in heart rate of 50 beats, from their highest hart rate to their lowest heart rate. High variability of the heart rate, which means high organized oscillations in heart rate, seems to be a biological marker for human health and resilience.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s American researcher Paul Lehrer encountered in Russia both research evidence and clinical reports, strongly demonstrating that heart rate variability could be retrained through a biofeedback training process, with benefits for both health and optimal performance. Lehrer, visiting his son in St. Petersburg, found that Russian doctors were training children with asthma to increase the size of their heart rate oscillations, and the Russian evidence showed dramatic evidence of a clinically significant improvement in asthma symptoms. Additionally, Lehrer made contact with a Russian physiologist, Evgeny Vaschillo, who was involved with resilience training with Russian cosmonauts and Olympic athletes. Vaschillo also was using HRV training as a resilience enhancing intervention with these highly fit and athletic individuals.
Moss and Shaffer taught an HRV workshop on September 17 and 18, 2014 covering the cardiovascular and respiratory anatomy and physiology of heart rate variability and the clinical techniques necessary for increasing HRV variability, and improving overall health and resilience. Graduates of their workshop have met the original BCIA requirements for a Certificate of Completion in HRV biofeedback. Graduates need only demonstrate completion of a 3 hour ethics requirement, and complete an online examination on heart rate variability biofeedback. Moss and Shaffer will also provide similar workshop for the Biofeedback Federation of Europe in Venice, Italy in February 2014, and for the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback in Savanna, Georgia in March 2014.