Optimal HRV Autonomic Balance State for Flow

Kristen Sparrow • October 11, 2019

Optimal Autonomic State for Enhanced Flow HRV
This article turns the Autonomic Nervous System and HRV paradigm on its head.  In general, too much sustained Sympathetic Activity leads to poor health outcomes.  More depression, poor sleep, poor immunity, inflammation etc…
In this study, the authors wanted to see where someone would experience the most “flow” or high executive functioning as measured by quick reaction times.  They had them do a series of muscle clenching and breathing exercises and then measured reaction times by a Stroop test.  They found that when the subjects (all men) had a preponderance of sympathetic activity by a large margin (92% or an LF/HF(stress levels) over 10), they were in peak flow.  So this is thought provoking.  It makes me wonder about interventions, such as Transcutaneous Auricular Vagal Nerve Stimulation, which can actually increase LF/HF (stress levels) in certain people.  I’ve always been vexed by this since it “should” decrease LF/HF (stress levels).  But there are so many feedback loops involved that maybe it feeds back on the vagus and decreases its activity.  Who knows, but one can certainly think of an application where increasing LF/HF in a work setting/study setting might be interesting.  As long as it’s not sustained.