Patrick Steffen, Psychology
- Evaluation of how well the academic objectives of the proposal were met
The primary objectives of this project was to examine neurological changes in depressed individuals who were randomized to either a psychotherapy plus Heart Rate Variability (HRV) biofeedback training or to a treatment as usual group. A control group with no history of depression was also studied. In the past two years, we were able to collect psychological, physiological, and imaging data from 30 participants (10 in an experimental group, 10 in a treatment as usual group, and the other 10 in a healthy control group) at baseline and follow-up. Overall, participants from the experimental group went through 5 weekly HRV trainings in conjunction with traditional psychotherapy approaches. The treatment as usual group only received psychotherapy. The healthy controls did not receive any HRV training or therapy services. Upon finishing data collection, we analyzed the data. Two of our graduate students were able to finish their dissertations using the data from this project. Preliminary data was presented in a conference symposium last year. We are currently planning to submit findings from this study to an academic journal.
- Evaluation of the mentoring environment
Students who worked in this project were supervised under the direction of Dr. Patrick Steffen, Dr. Brock Kirwan, and Dr. Barbara Morell. All three of them provided unconditional support and guidance to students so that they learnt to work independently in conducting HRV and brain scanning sessions.
- List of students who participated and what academic deliverables they have produced or it is anticipated they will produce
Below two of our graduate students who worked closely together in this project:
Hiu Wai (Yoko) Caldwell – Yoko facilitated all the clinical interviews to ensure all participants met criteria to participate in this study. She also conducted all HRV sessions, helped with scanning participants’ brain, analyzed data, and used part of the data from this study to finish her dissertation.
Michelle Nash – Michelle facilitated all brain scans from scanning to analyzing all brain scan data. She also worked closely with Yoko to ensure all participants show up to their appointments. She used part of the data from this study to finish her dissertation.
- Description of the results/findings of the project
Overall, we found significant improvements in the experimental group’s depression score, overall distress level, and HRV measurements relative to the TAU and control groups. However, we did not find significant HRV and resting-state connectivity group differences among experimental group relative to healthy controls. Together, results suggest that HRV training helps to reduce depressed participants’ overall distress level and depressive symptoms. However, findings do not show any changes in participants’ imaging data. These findings serve as pilot data on literature related to HRV biofeedback training in a depressed population.
- Description of how the budget was spent
The MEG grant covered compensation to all participants, getting disposable electros for HRV sessions, paying the BYU Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Research Facility for using their MRI scanning mechanize, and all miscellaneous (e.g., folders, labels, making copies).