emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

A skeptical look at medical practices

emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #1  Postby Chancellor Bigsby » Fri Feb 05, 2010 4:26 pm

To Whom it May Interest,

    Thank you in advance for your time.  This is my first foray into the Skeptic Forum, and already I've learned something about zebras.  Yet another question, non-mammalian in nature, haunts me.  A technically non-medical product called HeartMath emWave is being marketed as a way to relieve stress.  The makers purport to have 15 years of research backing them up, most of it coming from an affiliated non-profit called the HeartMath Institute.  The technology itself comes in two varieties, including a portable device and software/hardware for a computer.  Both are meant to facilitate "coherence" via a change in heart rate variability.

     As I am optimistic about the potential for biofeedback to improve people's lives (including my own), I have repeatedly attempted to vet this item for purchase.  Each time, I become suspicious enough to shy away from the product without definitively concluding that it is a fraud.  Surprisingly, I can't find any previous venue thoroughly debunking HeartMath.  It's on http://www.quackwatch.org, for example, but there is no specific entry explaining why it's hokum.

     Besides what I've already mentioned, there are various other warning signs about HeartMath.  A few of them include:

-none of the studies listed on the website (at least that I've read) even mention the emWave, but rather the potential for heart rate variability and "coherence" to reduce stress.  See http://www.heartmath.org/research/publications.html#basic_research

-the founder of the institute is Doc Childre, who isn't actually a doctor.  You can find a short biography of him at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/doc-childre.  

-the organization (or one of its subsidiaries) was, in some way or another, once associated with Dan Winter.  An admitted scam artist, his website was recently seized as part of a court order against him.  Therein, a HeartMath representative insists that Mr. Winter actually had very little connection to his organization, despite the latter's claims.  Unfortunately, Mr. Winter's New Age chicanery is so outrageous and disturbing that any connection whatsoever is highly suspicious.    See http://www.danwinter.com/HeartTunerStatements.html

So, now I would like to remand it back to the committee of the whole.  I want to dismiss this product, but I've also read promising research about biofeedback and been given anecdotal testimonials by several people I know.  Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

--spelling errors corrected
Last edited by Chancellor Bigsby on Fri Feb 05, 2010 4:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #2  Postby Graumagier » Fri Feb 05, 2010 4:46 pm

You've pretty much assembled all the information yourself already. Plus, the website is ridiculous beyond funny:

Researchers will examine this date to determine whether the magnetic fields can be influenced by collective human emotional resonance following major events and whether the emotional energy generated by collective intuition about major future events is measurable in these fields. Analysts also will examine the data to assess whether the magnetic field shows indications of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other planetary physical events.


Now there's certainly some point to biofeedback, but I don't see why you'd have to spend $ 199 on some device that, at best, works equally well as simple relaxation or breathing training.
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #3  Postby Chancellor Bigsby » Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:43 pm

Mr. Graumagier:

   You're absolutely right that there are some ridiculous statements on the website. I was looking for confirmation and you gave it to me.

     I think part of me was hoping that the efficacy of the product could be divorced from their gimmicky presentation--but if that was the case, why not let the product stand for itself?  Why clothe it in vaguely New Age language?

    As far as scams go, this one appears unusually extensive.  Besides their claims about peer-reviewed research and implementation by large businesses, one young woman is also maintaining that she was "taught" about HeartMath in a community college class.  I don't know how to embed a video (sorry), so here is the hyperlink if anyone is interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yq-UBrXFNMw.  A follow-up video by "LatumWay" also points out a dubous-looking graph put out by the organization.  

I'm surprised that there isn't a more accessible repudiation of HeartMath available.  Maybe this forum topic could become a repository of information?  Or are people already bored with the subject?
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #4  Postby Eric Chamberlin » Sat Apr 09, 2011 3:38 pm

It is helpful to distinguish between the company Heartmath and the product "emWave Personal Stress Reliever".  There are a number of peculiar things about Heartmath, including it's New Age verbiage. However the product is actually more main-stream than it appears.

The emWave Personal Stress Reliever is a Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback device that performs its function well.  From the Heartmath web site one is led to believe that Heartmath developed this technology.  They did not.  In fact HRV feedback devices are manufactured by StressEraser on the consumer level, and roughly a dozen companies on the professional physiologist level including Thought Technology, Nexus etc.

The basic science of HRV feedback comes from the work of Evgeny Vaschillo in St. Petersburg Russia in the mid 80's when he directed a physiology institute whose mission, in part, was enhancing performance of Olympic athletes.The american physiologist Paul Lehrer met Vaschillo by chance and recruited him to the US where the two have worked productively since.  Much of their work is published in the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback Journal.

One of Vaschillo's seminal findings was the identification of the Resonant Frequency of the Cardiovascular System.
Briefly the Resonant Frequency is where the Heart Rate and Blood pressure oscillations are 180 degrees out of phase.  Heart rate is maximal when BP is minimized and vice versa approximately 6 secs later.  The significance of the Resonant Frequency lies in its maximal stimulation of pressure sensitive baro-receptors in the aorta and carotid arteries.  Stimulation of baro-receptors results in signals being sent to the brain-stem via the vagus nerve causing alteration in brain function.  This is one phenomenon in the relatively new field of "Ascending Visceral Regulation".
(I say new however Claude Bernard and Charles Darwin described the core features of this phenomena in their writings. Amazing.) That stimulation of the vagus nerve alters brain function is embodied in the use of vagal nerve stimulation in the treatment of epilepsy, and more recently refractory clinical depression.
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #5  Postby Joecoach » Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:46 pm

The basic science behind HeartMath and emWave is not HeartMath's - it is fact based on tons of research over the last 10 years. The stress response-  the fact that we respond emotionally first and think afterwards when we are under pressure, the link between HRV and our emotional state and the balance or lack of it in the autonomic nervous system. (when we breathe in HRV increases, when we breathe out it decreases. Recent Neurocardiology research has proved heart-brain communication. We know from extensive research the link between our emotional state and the hormonal balance (cortisol/DHEA) of our system. The emWave is purely a HRV monitor - when we are stressed our HRV pattern is chaotic, when we are coherent (our systems in balance around a resonant frequency of 0.1hz) it produces a smooth sine like wave. Having used the device for a couple of years to combat nerves I can really recommend it. When coupled with centred breathing and positive emotion techniques it really is a great training aid to help manage your state.  Forget about all the fluffy sounding stuff and heart feelings. Trust me - if you are a golfer try it out !
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #6  Postby Lance Kennedy » Fri Jul 13, 2012 12:56 am

When I saw the term "personal stress reliever" my mind turned to something else entirely, that relieves stress, without special equipment, and for no money spent at all.   You could even describe it as biofeedback.

Thanks from:
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #7  Postby budimir24 » Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:36 pm

Dear Lance Kennedy,
I am very interested with your mentioning some alternative method of relieving  stress without special equipment and for no money spent at all.
Could you write about it in some detail?
Budimir Rogovoy, Ph.D. (Orel, Russia)
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #8  Postby Poodle » Tue Jun 18, 2013 7:12 pm

Write? NOOOOOOOO! It's gotta be YouTube!
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #9  Postby 1OvergroundMan » Tue Jun 18, 2013 9:19 pm

budimir24 wrote:Dear Lance Kennedy,
I am very interested with your mentioning some alternative method of relieving  stress without special equipment and for no money spent at all.
Could you write about it in some detail?
Budimir Rogovoy, Ph.D. (Orel, Russia)


Dear doctor,

Less than a second of introspection should adequately reveal the method to which Mr. Lance Kennedy makes reference.

Sincerely,
Peter Pevensie the Magnificent, High King of Narnia, Emperor of the Lonely Islands, Lord of Cair Paravel, and Knight of the most Noble Order of the Lion
"Oh, tell me, who was it first announced, who was it first proclaimed, that man only does nasty things because he does not know his own interests...Oh, the babe! Oh, the pure, innocent child!" Fyodor Dostoevsky
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #10  Postby Daedalus » Tue Jun 18, 2013 9:26 pm

1OvergroundMan wrote:
budimir24 wrote:Dear Lance Kennedy,
I am very interested with your mentioning some alternative method of relieving  stress without special equipment and for no money spent at all.
Could you write about it in some detail?
Budimir Rogovoy, Ph.D. (Orel, Russia)


Dear doctor,

Less than a second of introspection should adequately reveal the method to which Mr. Lance Kennedy makes reference.

Sincerely,
Peter Pevensie the Magnificent, High King of Narnia, Emperor of the Lonely Islands, Lord of Cair Paravel, and Knight of the most Noble Order of the Lion


Now now, we should respect the good doctor's honest inquiry, and not beat around the bush. WINK

Mr. Dr. Sir...

Does this in any way answer your question as to a solitary activity one can find great relief in?

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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #11  Postby Major Malfunction » Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:52 pm

Dear sir,

I am a confirmed bachelor.

Yours insincerely,
Major.
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #12  Postby Gord » Wed Jun 19, 2013 2:22 am

10 post
1016185 views

Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #13  Postby ahilal » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:45 pm

I own an EmWave and actually found this page as I was looking around the web for a place to buy a second one.

I cannot vouch for any of the supposed science behind the EmWave. Others have already addressed the topic in more depth than I can.

What I will say personally is that I do find the device is useful for stress relief. It may simply be the combination of placebo effect and being forced to sit down and breathe regularly for 15 minutes, but the result is, in my experience, as advertised: a near-immediate reduction in stress.

One way I've thought of it is that it's a little video game you can play. To play it successfully, you must do something very much like meditation. I've never had much luck crossing my legs and staring into a candle, but something about the video game aspect of the EmWave has been amenable to making me sit down, shut everything else out, and just be mindful of my breathing for a short time.

There are a hell of a lot of people in the world who would benefit from that simple act, even if all the biofeedback stuff is malarkey. If this device helps them sit down and focus, it's doing its job.

We wound up loaning ours out to a family member and that's why I need a second one :)
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #14  Postby Lance Kennedy » Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:38 am

Apart from the personal stress reliever I mentioned earlier, there is another method that works well, and costs nothing.

Simply find a tranquil setting, and go for a long walk.    I like to walk by the sea and through the wonderful NZ rain forest.   Others might like to walk in a park, or along tree lined suburban streets, or by a river.    Whatever your choice, it is a very healthy option.  You gain good exercise and you let your mind relax, thus opposing stress.
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #15  Postby Major Malfunction » Sat Sep 28, 2013 7:17 am

LOL!

Wank.
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #16  Postby WalDinLV » Fri Jan 24, 2014 3:23 pm

Is conversational devolution an unavoidable result of online public forum activity or is it simply a predominant and annoying extension of self-absorbed pseudointellectuals.
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #17  Postby Pyrrho » Sat Jan 25, 2014 1:08 am

The two sets are not mutually exclusive.
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #18  Postby OlegTheBatty » Sat Jan 25, 2014 2:51 am

Don't forget wankers. Also not mutually exclusive.
"Learning will never hurt you. Only the man who knows too little knows too much." - Rex Stout
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Re: emWave HeartMath "Personal Stress Reliever"

Post #19  Postby nmblum » Sat Jan 25, 2014 3:07 am

OlegTheBatty wrote:Don't forget wankers. Also not mutually exclusive.


And cheap…a statement for anti-consumerism.
As well as  the best sleeping pill that god ever produced in his drug lab.
And it is I think the only sport that doesn't require special clothing.
Or shoes.
And  not a team sport, so particularly good for those "who don't play well with others…"

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