HRV Supplement: Physiological Coherence

“When coherence is increased in a single system that is coupled to other systems, it can pull the other systems into coherence or entrainment, resulting in increased cross-coherence in the activity of the other systems, even across different time scales of activity. An example of this is in the increased heart-brain synchronization that occurs in a heart coherent mode.”1

In Heart Rate Variability: Finding the Pulse On Your Emotions, I describe the phenomenon by which improving your heart rate variability can positively affect higher brain centers to improve in functionality and efficiency. One reason this is possible is by way of coherence. Generally, coherence is defined as “forming a unified whole.” In terms of physiology, we can apply this concept of coherence to heart-brain systems in terms of a “wholeness and global order: This is coherence as a distinctive organization of parts, the relations of which generate an emergent whole that is greater that the sum of the individual parts.”1 Another way to look at this may be in terms of a conversation: when two people are speaking coherently and can understand one another, the conversation moves forward with ease. If there is a lack of coherency between the two individuals, the conversation becomes disjointed; often, one or the other will have to stop and ask for clarification if the conversation is to move forward.

When considering physiological coherence, the idea, then, is to have bodily systems all speaking in a manner that can be easily understood by one another. When you look at something like emotional coherence, you’re really trying to make sense of the conversation happening between the heart and the brain. Basically, when these two are speaking to one another coherently, psychophysiological processes operate more efficiently, positively affecting the way you move and how you feel–you’re capable of faster recovery from challenging movement patterns (i.e. working out/training) and are better able to manage your emotional response to environmental stimuli.2,3 Coherence is therefore a vital function by which various systems and processes can come together to produce desirable results.

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1McCraty, R., Atkinson, M., Tomasino, D., & Bradley, R. T. (2009, December). The Coherent Heart: Heart–Brain Interactions, Psychophysiological Coherence, and the Emergence of System-Wide Order. Retrieved from

2Castaneda, J. A. (2018). Heart Rate Variability: Finding the Pulse On Your Recovery. Retrieved September 10, 2018, from

3Castaneda, J. A. (2018). Heart Rate Variability: Finding the Pulse On Your Emotions. Retrieved September 10, 2018, from