Measures of Autonomic Nervous System
DEFENSE CENTERS OF EXCELLENCE FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH AND TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY ARLINGTON VA
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Mind-body health practices aim to regulate activation of the sympathetic nervous system SNS to maintain homeostasis within the autonomic nervous system ANS. The activation of the SNS is directly related to stress response, which, if persistent or prolonged, may lead to physiological and psychological damage. The ability to return to homeostasis after exposure to a stressor or to moderate SNS activation is a measure of resilience. In order to measure the effects of mind-body skills in facilitating resilience, tools may be used that are sensitive to the changes in activation and allow for feedback to guide practice. The most promising and most often used measures of ANS activation encompass non-invasive tools, which measure cardiac, skin conductance, respiratory, and vascular activity. Choice of tools is dependent upon a variety of factors, including setting, purpose, user friendliness and psychometric properties. In this companion paper to Mind-body Skills for Regulating the Autonomic Nervous System, a brief overview of ANS activity, as well as a review of the physiological measurement of stress, is presented. A description of tools which measure the nine ANS pathways is also presented. Finally, a decision tree is offered to aid in choosing appropriate tools for measurement of the effects of mind-body skills.
- Anatomy and Physiology