Positivity, Hrv And Vagal Tone - Dr Barbara Frederickson

Hey guys,

I went to a cool talk the other day and thought i would share. The talk was presented to the sydney Neuroleadership interest group and was about positivity, how to measure it and the impacts. Interestingly one of the key metrics was Vagal Tone / HRV and there was some evidence presented that there is a "baseline" vagal tone that is pretty much developmentally set after about 3 years of age. Its really interesting that HRV can be used as a quantifiable . Some of the other highlights of the presentation:
  • Frequency of positive experiences and vagal tone are correlated. An intervention that was trialled was loving kindness meditation that showed increase in frequency of positive experiences. Interestingly, the people with the highest vagal tone were the ones who got the most benefit.
  • Big picture/systems thinking and positivity go hand in hand. A couple of studies were presented:
    • One study used FMRI to measure brain activity in subjects. subjects were shown a picture of a face overlayed on a picture of a house and asked to identify if the face was male or female. Subjects who were in positive states of mind showed activity in regions associated with both spacial awareness and facial recognition. Subjects who were in negative states of mind showed activity in the facial recognition region only. An intervention was used (giving the subjects a lolly) and this was found to make the negative people show the brain activity more associated with a positive state of mind (they were happy from being given a lolly).
    • One study asked subjects to identify patterns in groups of shapes. The shapes were set up so that there were two patterns in them, one at a structural (high) level and the other at a component (low) level. Positivity was correlated with preferentially identifying the system level patterns. Interventions with subjects in negative states of mind changed their bias from identifying the component level patterns to identifying the system level patterns.
  • Ability to recognise faces across different races is correlated with positivity and can be improved with interventions
  • Studies on doctors showed that the quality of medical decisions (as rated by other doctors) improves with positive states of mind.


The moral of the story is that if you want to foster a state of mind to optimise systems level thinking and compassion then get yourself happy. If you want to have a narrow focus and being trusting isn't a helpful attribute in your particular situation then get yourself cranky. If you're going to the doctor then come armed with some lollies haha.



Here is a link i found to all the research:

http://www.unc.edu/p...blications.html



AND i'm writing this off the top of my head a couple days after seeing the presentation so please forgive me if i'm mixing up details about the experiments! image/icon_e_smile.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':smile:' />
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