Biofeedback Heart Rate Control Aids Depression in Older Adults

Article excerpt

ORLANDO -- The use of biofeedback to control heart rate variability could be useful in the treatment of older patients with depression, just as it has been beneficial for patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and various cancers.

"Heart rate variability is probably the best marker of health in general, such that if one has good heart rate variability, one is generally healthy. But should someone have any health problems, they can learn to improve their heart rate variability and do better," said Leon Hyer, Ph.D., in a poster presentation given at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America.

In a pilot study of two depressed women aged 55 and 56 years, Dr. Hyer, a professor of psychiatry at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, N.J., found that biofeedback training aimed at improving heart rate variability (HRV) resulted in a significant decrease in depressive symptoms.

"This has been shown in young, depressed patients but not in older patients," said Dr. Hyer in an interview. The two subjects underwent 10 biofeedback sessions in which they were taught--using audio and video feedback from laptop computers--how to regulate their heart rates and breathe at their resonant frequency. …