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Effects of Heart Rate Variability Coherence Biofeedback Training and Emotional Management Techniques to Decrease Music Performance Anxiety

Thurber, M.R., Bodenhamer-Davis, E., Johnson, M., Chesky, K., Chandler, C. K.

Biofeedback, 2010. 38(1): p. 28-39.

For a PDF version of the complete paper, click here.

Abstract

Due to the prevalence of music performance anxiety and the emergence of new biofeedback technologies used to decrease anxiety, student musicians were recruited to participate in an experimental repeated-measures study to identify effects of heart rate variability coherence biofeedback training and emotional self-regulation techniques on music performance anxiety and music performance. Fourteen students were assigned randomly to a treatment or control group following a 5-minute unaccompanied baseline performance. Treatment group participants received 4-5 heart rate variability training sessions of 30-50 minutes each. Training included bibliotherapy, computerized heart rate variability biofeedback training, emotional regulation exercises, and use of a portable heart rate variability training device. Measures included the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Performance Anxiety Inventory, Flow State Scale, average heart rate, and heart rate variability. Quade's rank-transformed analysis of covariance was used to evaluate treatment and no-treatment group comparisons. Combined music performance anxiety scores showed statistically significant improvement at a ρ = .05 level with a large effect size of ηρ2 = .320. State anxiety measurement showed a large effect size of ηρ2 = .291. The Performance Anxiety Inventory showed a large effect size of ηρ2 = .149. Heart rate showed a large effect size of ηρ2 = .143. Heart rate variability showed statistical significance at ρ = .001 level and a large effect size of ηρ2 =.698. The treatment group average subjective decrease in music performance anxiety was 71%, and the treatment group average subjective improvement in performance was 62%. This study demonstrated statistical and practical/clinical significance of a relatively quick and inexpensive biofeedback training that had a large effect on decreasing mental, emotional, and physiological aspects of music performance anxiety and subjective improvement of performance for university students.