One of the systems that helps regulate our cardiovascular homeostasis is the arterial baroreflex system.
Within the baroreflex system are sensors in artery walls that stretch or relax the arteries in reaction to blood pressure changes. These sensors trigger reflexes that increase or decrease heart rate to compensate for shifts in blood pressure.
High baroreflex sensitivity in patients is generally associated with health and wellness; as we age, become ill, or undergo stress, however, the sensitivity of the baroreflex sensors declines, making it harder to maintain homeostasis for the cardiovascular system.
This reduced sensitivity blunts the flexibility of the body’s self-regulatory system and can be associated with numerous problems and disorders.
How might we improve baroreflex sensitivity?
By exercising our baroreflexes through exercise, healthy eating, and stress reduction we can improve baroreflex sensitivity.
There are other methods that fewer people have heard about.
In the 1960s, physiologists studying respiratory sinus arrhythmia — natural changes in heartbeat when breathing in and out — showed strong evidence of cardiovascular system resonance when breathing at a slow rate (about 5–6 breaths per minute), indicated by high swings in heart rate.
In the 1980s, Russian physiologist Evgeny Vaschillo theorized that the baroreflex system’s closed feedback loop has control processes that provide this resonant property.
Theoretically, any rhythmical stimulation of the cardiovascular system — breathing rate or another method — should elicit high amplitude oscillations in cardiovascular function at its resonant frequency.
This is what we’re working on at Vagus Labs
At Vagus Labs we are creating devices that passively stimulate the cardiovascular system using light, sound, pressure, electrical pulse, and vibration at preferred frequencies.
Fred Muench, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who served on the team that developed the Helicor StressEraser bio-feedback device for breath-based stress reduction, as well as the Breath Pacer application for the iPhone. Fred offers a unique perspective into the science and application of conscious breathing, with some startling revelations on the profound effects breathing has on depression, anxiety and hypertension.
Steven Dean is a designer, entrepreneur, and educator. He is a partner at Prehype, a venture development firm that incubates new digital companies on behalf of the world’s finest corporations. His work addresses how behavior change, technology, and design are used to shape how we make changes at the individual, societal, and organizational levels. He teaches innovation and service design in graduate programs at NYU ITP and School of Visual Arts. He is the founder of the NY chapter of Quantified Self.