MyCalmBeat Helps You Take a Deep Breath and Relax

A new smartphone app called MyCalmBeat has been created by an international team of scientists, clinicians and technology experts to help reduce stress and improve performance.

Launched by MyBrainSolutions, a company utilizing the expertise of brain researchers and high-tech professionals from around the world, the app applies biofeedback technology to teach users to control their personal breathing rates to achieve greater calm and alleviate stress. Dr. Richard Gervitz, a professor at San Diego's Alliant International University, whose research involves heart-rate variability, also collaborated on the project.

Find What Your Heart Rate Should Be

The app initially runs a personalized assessment, determining the users' optimal resting heart rate. This is achieved via a heart-rate sensor attached to the ear and a computer for twelve minutes while the user follows simple guided breathing steps to relax. Once a state of calm is detected, the app identifies a baseline, or starting point for the user, which is both exclusive to that person and can be further improved through future training and breathing exercises. Savannah DeVarney, vice president of product marketing for the company, stated that the average baseline score hovers between 7.5 and 4.5 breaths per minute.

Breathe and Stabilize

The app provides a visual picture that is static, creating awareness of one's breathing habits by mirroring the physiological changes as they occur in real time. After the initial assessment, users engage in training sessions where their individual heart-rate variability is measured and compared to their baseline score. As their breathing slows, users achieve a higher score, indicative of greater calmness and reduced stress.

The app focuses specifically on heart-rate variability, also known as the resonant frequency, to promote better focus and concentration. DeVarney explains that the app does not examine heart rate specifically, but rather the variations between inhalations and exhalations. Stress causes consistently elevated heart-rates with limited variability. On the other hand, a relaxed state triggers slower intake and faster outtake, thereby increasing variability between the two.

According to the company, breathing patterns affect heart-rates, which, in turn, influence the brain's abilities to manage stress. The app developers suggest that people can learn to control their respiration through exercises that teach slow, deep breathing.

The app is designed for the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android devices, with the company recommending customers to train ten minutes per day, three times per week.

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback technology utilizes visual information to make individuals aware of a host of physiological functions. Sensors record changes in muscle tone, heart function, skin temperature, brainwaves or breathing patterns, displaying instant data as it occurs through games, animated scenarios or as moving graphs on computer screens. Depending on the condition being treated, sensors may be placed on the head, fingers, back or abdominal area to detect related physiological functions.

Migraines, muscular pain, incontinence and strokes have frequently been treated with biofeedback technology. When anxiety or excessive worry is addressed, the patient may also engage in psychotherapy with a trained specialist to identify and evaluate the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The two treatments combined aim to alleviate anxiety symptoms and improve outcomes.

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Date of original publication:

Updated: October 29, 2016