CookiesWe use cookies to enhance your experience and the functionality of our website. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More

CookiesWe use cookies on our website. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More

New Inner Balance™ Coherence Plus Sensor and App: Includes Free Lifetime Access to the New HeartMath® App Learn More

Research Library

Emotion Self‑Regulation, Psychophysiological Coherence, and Test Anxiety: Results from an Experiment Using Electrophysiological Measures

    • Published: 2010 PR
    • Raymond Trevor Bradley; Rollin McCraty; Mike Atkinson; Dana Tomasino; Alane Daugherty; Lourdes Arguelles
    • Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, June 2010. Volume 35, Number 4, 261-283, DOI: 10.1007/s10484-010-9134-x.
    • English
      Download the complete paper, click here.
    • Request an e-mailed version of complete paper, click here.


This study investigated the effects of a novel, classroom-based emotion self-regulation program (TestEdge) on measures of test anxiety, socioemotional function, test performance, and heart rate variability (HRV) in high school students. The program teaches students how to self-generate a specific psychophysiological state – psychophysiological coherence – which has been shown to improve nervous system function, emotional stability, and cognitive performance. Implemented as part of a larger study investigating the population of tenth grade students in two California high schools (N = 980), the research reported here was conducted as a controlled pre- and postintervention laboratory experiment, using electrophysiological measures, on a random stratified sample of students from the intervention and control schools (N = 136). The Stroop color-word conflict test was used as the experiment’s stimulus to simulate the stress of taking a high-stakes test, while continuous HRV recordings were gathered. The postintervention electrophysiological results showed a pattern of improvement across all HRV measures, indicating that students who received the intervention program had learned how to better manage their emotions and to self-activate the psychophysiological coherence state under stressful conditions. Moreover, students with high test anxiety exhibited increased HRV and heart rhythm coherence even during a resting baseline condition (without conscious use of the program’s techniques), suggesting that they had internalized the benefits of the intervention. Consistent with these results, students exhibited reduced test anxiety and reduced negative affect after the intervention. Finally, there is suggestive evidence from a matched-pairs analysis that reduced test anxiety and increased psychophysiological coherence appear to be directly associated with improved test performance—a finding consistent with evidence from the larger study.