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Self‑Regulatory Biofeedback Training: An Intervention to Reduce School Burnout and Improve Cardiac Functioning in College Students
With the detrimental relationship between school burnout and physiological and cognitive functioning now well documented, interventions to ameliorate school burnout symptomology are needed. This study examined the effectiveness of a self-regulatory biofeedback intervention program (Heart Rate Variability Coherence Biofeedback Training [HRVCB]) in contrast to a protocol demonstrated to produce cognitive and physiological improvements (a high intensity interval training protocol [HIIT]) as well as a wait-list control condition at decreasing school burnout in an American collegiate sample (N = 90). Intervention training was conducted over a 4-week span (three sessions per week) with accompanying baseline and post-intervention assessments. In addition to measurements of school burnout and negative affect (depression and anxiety), intervention influences on cognition (via a serial subtraction task) and physiology (hemodynamics, electrocardiography, and a submaximal cardiorespiratory fitness test) were explored. Findings indicate HRVCB training significantly decreased school burnout and increased mathematical performance from pre- to post-intervention measurement. These changes did not occur for HIIT or waitlist participants. Brachial and aortic systolic blood pressure decreased pre to post-intervention for HRVCB but not HIIT or waitlist participants. Cardiovascular fitness (VO2max) improved pre to post-intervention for HIIT but not HRVCB or waitlist participants. Also, both HRVCB and HIIT training participants decreased heart rate from pre to post-intervention but not waitlist participants. Finally, all participants decreased cardiac sympathovagal tone from pre to post-intervention. These findings provide evidence that HRVCB training programs can decrease school burnout as well as improve components associated with cardiac health. Study limitations and directions for future research are discussed.