Voluntary Control and Reactivity of Human Heart Rate

Iris R. Bell, Gary E. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Factors in human voluntary heart rate control with and without external feedback were studied. Average voluntary heart rate control in the laboratory was comparable to the range of heart rates obtained during accelerative‐decelerative ‘reactivity’ tasks in the laboratory and to heart rates obtained during various situation* outside of the laboratory. However, cardiac rate reactivity did not reliably predict voluntary control performance across subjects (Ss). With full instructions, Ss were able to increase but not decrease heart rate relative to resting levels before feedback was provided. With full‐scale meter feedback. Ss could both increase and decrease heart rate relative to resting levels. Performance in Bidirectional control during feedback remained constant. The ability both to increase and to decrease heart rate transferred to the postfeedback. no‐meter condition. Reversing the meaning of the Up and Down cue lights during post‐feedback for half of the As had no deleterious effect on bidirectional heart rate control. The importance of physiological and situational constraints in Bidirectional heart rate control is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-348
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1975


  • Bidirectional voluntary control
  • Biological constraints
  • Heart rate
  • Instructions
  • Out‐of‐lab pulse rates
  • Patterning
  • Reactivity
  • feedback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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