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Psychoneuroimmunology in Patients with HIV in Recovery from Substance Use: The Effect of Heart Rhythm Coherence Feedback Training

    • Published: 2016
    • Sam Pow
    • Dissertation, Master of Social Work, California State University, Northridge, 2016.
    • Download the complete paper, click here.


This study used a biofeedback intervention that taught patients how to synchronize their heart rhythm with their respiration and their alpha brain waves in order to lower their levels of autonomic nervous system (ANS) activation. In essence, subjects learned how to create more integration between their physical and psychological selves while gaining increased control over their ability to mindfully respond to challenges rather than reflexively reacting with a "fight or flight" response. The goal was to bolster the effectiveness of patients’ Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART) by decreasing flow of norepinephrine which in turn is expected to lower their HIV viral loads while boosting their CD4 T-Cell counts. The intervention was also expected to have a positive effect on patients’ stress levels and sense of self-efficacy because it empowered them to develop control over their consciousness and their physiological states through the use of breathing exercises and positive-emotion-focused techniques. The findings indicated that heart rhythm coherence feedback training had a positive impact on the psychological measure of self-efficacy and was found to be linked to a statistically significant reduction in anxiety as well as a statistically significant increase in CD4 T-cells.