What is heart rate variability?

Heart rate variability, or HRV, is the natural rise and fall of your heart rate in response to your breathing, blood pressure, hormones and even emotions. In a healthy heart, the rate should increase as you inhale and decrease as you exhale. HRV is reflective of the general wellness state of the organism.

Why should I use HRV in my practice?

HRV (heart rate variability) is relatively young but one of the fastest developing area of biomedical knowledge. It provides special methods of analysis of variability in heart rhythm caused by various physiological mechanisms of functional regulation of the body and primarily by the autonomic nervous system.

Vast number of recent research studies clearly showed that the autonomic nervous system plays key role in maintaining our body’s well-being by keeping it in the optimal state of inner regulation. There are many factors of stress nature that cause this regulation to fail for shorter or longer periods of time. Such repetitive failures lead to developing various maladies.

Using HRV methods we can enable you to get very accurate quantitative reliable and placebo free assessment of the autonomic function before such failures of the functional regulation lead to full symptomatic clinical cases. Proper autonomic assessment can help to detect health problems at early stages and optimize their proper care.

What is autonomic balance?

By measuring the heart’s rhythmic patterns (heart rate variability) Biocom product can assess the Autonomic Nervous System’s state of balance very accurately. 90% of the body’s functions are controlled by the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS is like the brake pedal and gas pedal for an automobile. Sympathetic regulation is the Gas and Parasympathetic activation is the Brake. It is essential to have both to run the vehicle appropriately, safely and efficiently. If too much Gas (Stress) is used, this over charges the vehicle. Apply the brakes (Relaxation) too hard or too often, the system is sluggish. This analogy works in a simplified manner to express how the autonomic nervous system functions in the human body. ANS Balance is an essential key to health and a stable immune system.

What is physiological homeostasis?

Physiological homeostasis is defined as a dynamic state of the body’s regulatory functions maintained at their inner balance. Inner balance is the key to longevity, a healthy response to the stress of life.

Please tell me why your products are better than other similar products available?

Biocom products are known for years as the most superior in the market of professional assessment of the autonomic function, physiological monitoring and biofeedback.

Biocom products were designed by top notch professionals in the industry of biomedical technologies with over 25 years of professional experience.

All Biocom products were scientifically validated with special research studies and acknowledged by leading professionals and academic organizations such as Baylor University, Stanford University, University of North Carolina and many others.

While being the products of high quality and superior functionality they are noticeably less expensive than any of their substantial equivalents.

I’m a chiropractor. What Biocom product would be best for measuring changes in the autonomic function associated with my treatment procedures?

If you want to have a simple inexpensive tool to measure just the autonomic balance before and after your treatment procedure, we would recommend the Inner Balance Scan 2.0. If you want to obtain more detailed information about the autonomic function derived from resting heart rate variability data and have ability to perform more measurements than just Pre- and Post-, then we would recommend the Heart Rhythm Scanner PE (which includes two challenge tests – deep metronomic breathing and standup tests). If you need to measure changes in the autonomic function in real-time, input event markers and later compare any segments of recorded data, then we would recommend the HRV Live!

What Biocom product can export measured heartbeat intervals (in milliseconds) and in what format?

Heart Rhythm Scanner PE and HRV Live! can export heartbeat intervals in Excel or plain text (ASCII) formats.

I purchased Biocom product with Bioocm 5000 ECG device. What kind of ECG electrodes and from what vendor would you recommend to buy?

Any ordinary pre-gelled snap-type ECG electrodes available in online stores would work well.

I have Biocom 4000 ECG recorder unit. When I run a new test, I see fuzzy ECG trace on the screen. What can I do to make it clean?

There could be several reasons of having fuzzy ECG signal.

  • Incorrect setting of digital notch filter. Fuzzy signal may be due to presence of power noise induced through ECG cable wires. By default the system is configured to reject 60 Hz power noise (USA, Canada, part of Japan, etc.). If your power source uses 50 Hz frequency, it will definitely cause fuzzy ECG signal. Refer to your product manual to properly set the notch filter for your ECG device.
  • Poor electrical contact between ECG electrodes and skin. Thoroughly prepare skin under electrodes using alcohol swabs to remove excessive skin grease and dead skin cells. In some cases of dry skin using special conductive gel is recommended.
  • ECG electrodes are worn out. Although ECG electrodes are long-lasting, after some excessive use their Ag/AgCl coating becomes worn out. We recommend replacing electrodes. Contact our technical support to request replacement. It is easy to pull old electrodes out and snap new ones in.
Can any Biocom device record external event markers?

No

Can any Biocom product import raw ECG or pulse wave signal measured by non-Biocom device?

No

Can Biocom products export HRV data in MatLab file format?

No, there is no direct export into MatLab format. However ASCII of Excel export can be used for that purpose.

What Biocom products are capable of exporting HRV data and client information in digital format?

Heart Rhythm Scanner PE and HRV Live! can export heart rate variability data in Excel or plain text (ASCII) formats.

Why are your products more expensive than the HeartMath products?

This is not entirely accurate. The HeartMath products have limited use focusing on emotional improvement based on specific biofeedback technique. Their prices are within $200 – $300 range depending on specific model.

Our products have much broader scope of application ranging from similar biofeedback techniques to sophisticated autonomic assessment and monitoring tools. Many of our products simply do not have substantial equivalents at HeartMath. Our products functionally similar to what HearMath has are within the same price range of less than $300.

Is it possible to take a sequence of 5-minute data segments out of recorded test to do their comparative HRV analysis?

The Heart Rhythm Scanner performs testing based on specific protocols. Each protocol consists of a number of tests of specific duration (typically 5-minutes). So you can create a protocol consisting of a sequence of 5-min tests and run them one after another. They will be automatically analyzed and compared in HRV report. If these segments must be recorded as one continuous pool of data, the software can run all tests without stops. Select ‘View’ menu option and clear ‘Trial Dialog’ menu option to run all tests without stop

The software tells me that too much data is accumulated in the database. Removing raw ECG data is recommended. How can I do that? Can I do anything to avoid deleting ECG data?

According to the standards of HRV analysis it is essential to view ECG signal to do manual editing of heart rate data calculated by the software to remove all abnormal heartbeats. Once test data is edited and accurate HRV data is obtained, it is OK to delete respective ECG record. It can be done in HR editing mode. When you select specific test trial from the list for editing, you can remove ECG data by clicking respective button in that dialog box. However this deletion can be done only for each individual test trial not in bulk. If you wash to keep large volume of ECG recordings, you can do the following (however this requires good knowledge of Windows file system and principles of operations with files):

  • Make sure that you do not need any data editing for any of test records stored in the database.
  • Open “My Computer” (on your desktop or through Windows menu), then open “Local Disk (C:)”, then “Program Files”, then “Biocom Technologies”, then “Heart Rhythm Scanner” folder.
  • Create new folder in there where you will archive ECG data (e.g. “ECG Archive”).
  • Rename HRVECG file (it is of MDB Type) to assign a unique file name to it. We suggest adding date to the name, e.g. “HRVECG 051306”.
  • Move this renamed MDB file into archive folder. Do not use Copy option, because it will not free up database storage.
  • When you start the software next time, new empty HRVECG file will be automatically created and all new ECG records will be stored in it.
    At any time you can swap ECG storage files between active and archive folders to access old ECG records. Do not forget to properly rename both files because the software can access to ECG data only in HRVECG file located in active working folder. These files cannot be copied or moved to other copy of the software to access ECG data there!
Why should I edit heart rate data?

Although the software utilizes a sophisticated algorithm of detecting abnormal heartbeats or movement artifacts, it is recommended to verify the results of this detection with the best “tool” – your own eye. The software displays ECG or pulse wave signal and marks all heartbeats automatically detected. All normal heartbeats are marked with blue dots and abnormal ones with red dots. If you notice any heartbeats looking not normal but marked with blue, you can manually toggle them to red and vice versa. At any time you can revert any marker and recalculate HRV results to ensure highest reliability of your data.

I’m using Biocom 3000 ECG unit with the Heart Rhythm Scanner 2.0 for over a year. Until now it worked just fine. Now I got an error message “unable to initialize the device” or something like that. What should I do?

This error message indicates that the software is not able to communicate with the device for any of the following reasons:

  • Wrong software configuration;
  • Software failure;
  • USB port in your PC is not functioning;
  • Very low battery level in the ECG unit;
  • ECG unit is malfunctioning.

Case 1. The most typical situation is that the Heart Rhythm Scanner is configured to work with some other device rather than one being connected. To check and fix this problem:

  • Open the Heart Rhythm Scanner;
  • Select the “View” menu option;
  • Select the “Settings”;
  • Select the “Options”;
  • Make sure that the “Biocom 3000 ECG Unit” is selected in the “Signal Source” group;
  • Click OK to save this selection.

Case 2. Generally the Heart Rhythm Scanner software is very stable and functions well. However in very rare occasions it may become not responsive to detect the device. Close the software, reboot your PC and run the software again.

Case 3. To check if your USB port is functioning, use any standard USB device like mouse, keyboard, iPod, etc. that you normally connect to your PC via USB port. If it does not function as it should then try to use another USB port in your PC if available.

Case 4. Replace a 9V battery in your Biocom 3000 ECG unit and try to run the system again.

Case 5. Biocom 3000 ECG unit is a device automatically recognized by Windows as a human interface USB device. To check if Windows “sees” it please unplug the device, make sure your PC sound is turned on and plug the device back in. If Windows recognizes it you will hear a typical “device connect” beep sound. There will be no sound If Windows does not recognize it at all. This would mean that the device has a USB cable problem. Windows may throw a message balloon in the notification area (bottom right corner of the desktop screen) indicating that the device is not recognized. This would mean it is malfunctioning. However even if Windows recognizes the ECG unit, it could still be not properly used by the Heart Rhythm Scanner throwing that “unable to initialize the device” error message. This would mean that the device is not functional and needs repair. Our analysis indicates that in most cases this happens due to a static electricity shock fried its internal circuitry. So it would be wise to take all standard precautions to minimize risk of static discharge. It is also recommended to unplug the device from the USB port immediately after finishing your test recording.

What is the difference between the PPG and ECG?

PPG (or photoplethysmograph) is a physiological signal reflecting one’s pulse wave. It is obtained with a special optical sensor. One part of the sensor emits infrared light passing through soft tissues of an earlobe or fingertip. The other part of the sensor measures infrared light passing through the tissues. The blood flowing through the lighted area absorbs certain portion of the light. The more blood is flowing the more light is absorbed. So the sensor generates a signal showing fluctuations in infrared light caused by fluctuations in blood flow due to pulsations in blood vessels. This signal has a very distinctive waveform that is easy to use to detect heartbeats and measure heartbeat intervals.

ECG (or EKG or electrocardiograph) is another type of physiological signal reflecting one’s heart electrical activity. The heart generates electrical impulses spreading across its muscle tissue causing its well-organized contractions (aka heartbeats). ECG signal is measured by an ECG recording device with special electrodes placed on wrists or chest around heart area. The ECG signal also has a very distinctive waveform reflecting the process of spreading an electrical impulse over the heart. This signal can be easily processed to obtain heartbeat intervals.

Is there any limit on number of clients and/or tests stored in the product’s database?

No, there are no formal limitations.

Can this product be used to measure autonomic balance before and after chiropractic adjustment?

Yes. The Inner Balance Scan has Pre/Post test mode, which allows for conducting two measurements combined in one test. The results of such test would show autonomic balance for both Pre- and Post- measurements and show its shift from Pre-1 to Post.

What does this report mean and how can I interpret the report for the client?

The Inner Balance Scan produces a fairly simple assessment report.

If you test your client in a single test mode, you get a simple “snapshot” of the client’s current status of the autonomic function. The report shows three diagrams – autonomic balance, regulatory efforts bar and well-being self-assessment indicator.

The autonomic balance diagram shows how active and well-balanced your client’s stimulating and calming functions are.

Autonomic Balance Diagram

Ideally healthy individual should produce this diagram with a dot representing actual result in the center of this diagram indicating that both functions are normal and very well balanced. Depending on where exactly the dot appears on this diagram the assessment report produces a specific interpretation indicating what this could mean: it could be a state of relaxation response, or acute stress, or total autonomic dystonia. It gives you some clues what might potentially cause this state and what to do.

The regulatory efforts diagram indicates a state of overall activity of all regulatory mechanisms responsible for body adaptation. The higher this indicator is the better body function is. However extremely high value might be an indication of poor quality of data recording, which is specifically evaluated by the software.

If you test your client in Pre/Post mode and run two tests before and after something, e.g. your treatment procedure, you will get two dots on each diagrams and arrow will show in which direction changes occur.

autonomic balance diagram Pre/Post

The report gives you interpretations of both tests is the same way as in single mode. However you will intuitively see what kind of change has occurred in the autonomic balance as a result of your procedure.

Whenever I try to start up Inner Balance Scan on my PC with Windows XP, I get the following error message:

Biocom Technologies Activation Application
Error in Activation Application:
Overflow or underflow in the arithmetic operation.

How do I correct the problems causing this error?


To resolve this problem, try the following:

– Visit Microsoft Windows Update site, check and install all updates available for your system. It automatically detects what you need to install.
– Reinstall Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 by running the DOTNETFX.EXE program from the Inner Balance Scan CD or download .NET Framework 2.0 from Microsoft Website.
– Reboot your PC.

Is this report good or bad?

The key element of the Inner Balance Scan assessment report is an autonomic balance diagram which indicates how active and well-balanced your client’s stimulating and calming functions are.

Autonomic Balance Diagram

Ideally healthy individual should produce this diagram with a dot representing actual result in the center of this diagram indicating that both functions are normal and very well balanced. Depending on where exactly the dot appears on this diagram the assessment report produces a specific interpretation indicating what this could mean. If we number all 9 segments of this diagram from left to right and from top to bottom, then good results would be if the dot is located in segments 2, 3 or 5. Segments 7, 8 and 9 are considered as not good.

What is the difference between the Inner Balance Scan and the Heart Rhythm Scanner?

The Inner Balance Scan is a low budget tool providing minimum means to get a quick and simple yet accurate and valid assessment of the autonomic function. The Heart Rhythm Scanner is more sophisticated and comprehensive tool to assess the autonomic function. It gives ability to perform full-scale short-term HRV analysis and get a detailed autonomic assessment report based on single or multiple testing protocols including resting HRV test, orthostatic and slow metronomic breathing challenge tests. It provides a number of ways to show test results in numerical and graphical formats, export measured data to perform additional analysis using known statistical or math tools, and much more.

Please explain to me what the numbers on the assessment report mean?

The Inner Balance Scan produces three simple scores:

  • Calming activity – the level of functional activity of the parasympathetic nervous system primarily responsible for body’s relaxation response.
  • Stimulating activity – the level of functional activity of the sympathetic nervous system primarily responsible for body’s stress response.
  • Regulatory efforts – the overall level of body’s regulatory activity including autonomic nervous system and other slower mechanisms of body regulation such as hormonal activity, major biological rhythms, etc.

The first two scores range from -50 to +50. The third score ranges from 0 to 100. They all are arbitrary units. Their value is directly tied to their normal ranges derived from the population normative database created in a specially designed research study. For the first two scores normal ranges are between -20 and +30. The closer the numbers are to 0, the closer respective parameters to their ideal state. The third parameter has normal range between 40 and 60. Its values less than 40 are considered not good, although values above 60 are good if the quality of test data was not compromised.

How can I use this product in my practice to help my clients?

In some ways it depends on what kind of practice you do.

  1. Generally this product is used to assess current condition of the autonomic nervous system and its reserve capabilities. It is known that many health problems have the autonomic nervous system involved. The ANS is a central regulatory mechanism that makes all body parts functioning adequately responding to many internal and external factors. The purpose of such regulation is to quickly adapt to changes in the environment. Many diseases start developing when the ANS becomes unable to properly regulate body functions. At that time there are no common clinical symptoms yet, but assessing the autonomic function may show its dysfunction. If this appears consistently it should be considered as an early sign of an onset of some health problem. Although this assessment has a non-specific nature and cannot give a distinctive diagnosis, using it as a screening tool to see if there are any red flags risen by the organism could be very helpful.
  2. The ANS is sensitive to various types of interventions having effect on its function. So it might be very helpful to use this product to evaluate such effects by either taking test before and after treatment procedures of by regular testing during the course of treatment to see if there is any positive effect of this treatment on the autonomic function.
  3. Using challenge tests (cardiovascular health and baroreflex sensitivity tests) could be used to find even hidden or subtle problems in the autonomic function. The standard assessment at rest may not show any problem with the autonomic function. But these challenge tests provoke the ANS to respond to certain challenge forcing its adaptive capabilities. So subtle problems with the autonomic function could be found when no other testing methods would show anything wrong.
Tell me about the differences between your products you have so many.

There are a few categories of the product we provide:
Health assessment systems based on evaluation of the autonomic function:
Heart Rhythm Scanner 3.0 – a comprehensive health assessment system providing three types of testing capabilities: autonomic balance test (assessing current body’s autonomic function), cardiovascular health test (assessing regulatory reserve of the autonomic nervous system and cardiovascular physiological adaptation capabilities) and baroreflex sensitivity test (assessing health of the core regulatory mechanism of body’s functional adaptation).
Inner Balance Scan 2.0 – a simple low budget tool for simple assessment of the autonomic function – its balance and activity level.
Heart rate variability (HRV) monitoring system:
HRV Live! – a comprehensive tool for measuring and monitoring the autonomic function in real-time using live HRV analysis. It can be used to assess full dynamics of the body’s autonomic regulation under influence of various interventions.
Stress management and health improvement tools:
Heart Tracker Professional – a comprehensive tool providing biofeedback training capabilities based on paced breathing techniques to help teaching patients how to reduce stress and improve various aspects of health (lowering blood pressure, strengthening immune system, improving digestive function, etc.)
Heart Tracker 3.0 – an inexpensive tool for individual biofeedback training based on paced breathing techniques as indicated above.

Why ‘Live’?

This is about a very unique feature of this product. Unlike other products measuring and assessing heart rate variability (HRV) this product was designed to monitor changes in HRV parameters over prolonged period of time in REAL-TIME mode. This means that the software repeatedly calculates all standard short-term HRV parameters from the last 5 minutes of measured heart rate (HR) every ½ of a second and DISPLAYS the dynamics of the HRV parameters updated at the same rate. This gives you an opportunity to see real dynamic (live) changes in HRV.

Can this product show instantaneous effect of any specific factors on HRV parameters?

Not exactly. As we know all HRV parameters are calculated with specific mathematical procedures (e.g. statistical formulas, spectral estimation, etc.) applied to the last 5-minute block of heart rate data. Even though heart rhythm could change instantaneously it would gradually push out “old” data from the last 5-minute data segment. This fact creates certain time lag and you will see gradual change in HRV readings within next couple of minutes. Despite of this time lag this method is quite sensitive to and responsive to show minute changes in HRV caused by various internal and external factors.

If I monitor HRV for a long period of time and any events happed during that time, how would I know when they happened?

The software has a special feature called event marker. With a single click you can stamp your data instantaneously. This marker will be visible on the history graphs while you are monitoring HRV, stored along with data and displayed along with it in review mode. You can edit these markers later adjusting their time and writing memos associated with them. You can even retrieve HRV parameters at the moments of those markers.

I know that HRV is quite sensitive to presence of abnormal heart rate readings caused by movements. It would be quite difficult to have a subject to remain still over long period of time. How do you handle this problem?

The software has a built-in sophisticated algorithm that automatically detects abnormal heartbeats and corrects data to minimize errors in HRV calculations. Moreover once HR data is recorded, it can be reviewed visually and any abnormal heartbeats missed by this automatic algorithm can be manually marked to improve data quality.

What is the best application for HRV Live?

This product was designed with a simple concept in mind. If you need to record the dynamics of changes in the autonomic function over a long period of time, continuous monitoring of HRV is the only option. If you administer anything that could have effect on the autonomic function continuous monitoring would let you see whether there is an effect, how quickly and strongly it works and how long it sustains.

Why should I use the Heart Tracker?

Heart Tracker gives you a paced breathing exercise. Slow and even breathing acts like an exercise to your internal mechanisms of self-regulation. Regular breathing exercise improves function of these mechanisms and give you a number of positive effects:

Immediate – lowers your stress, clears your mind.
If used regularly for a prolonged period of time – lowers blood pressure, strengthen immune system, improves overall health.

Do I have to have any special training to be able to use the Heart Tracker?

No. The software is very simple in use. It provides an intuitive graphical user interface minimizing needs for any special learning process.

How does the Heart Tracker work?

Heart Tracker gives you a live visual and auditory breath pacer. You must focus on it and breathe exactly according to pacer movement – breathe in when it goes up and breathe out when it goes down, hold your breathing when pacer stops. Paced breathing causes your heart rate (HR) changing synchronously with your breathing – HR goes up when you inhale and goes down when you exhale.

The Heart Tracker measures all changes in your HR and evaluates how synchronous your HR is with breath pacer by calculating a special training score. The higher synchronicity you have, the higher score it produces. The actual score is displayed on the graph, so you can immediately see the result of your training efforts. Keep your focus on breathing during the exercise. If you lose your focus and synchronism, the score will quickly drop. At the end of training session you will be given a report about what score you achieved and how well you maintained good score during whole session.

How can I move the session data from one computer to another?

Yes, it can be done with a simple and inexpensive pulse wave sensor utilizing a special ear-clip. The sensor is provided along with the Heart Tracker software.

Do I need any device to measure my heart rate?

No. The software is very simple in use. It provides an intuitive graphical user interface minimizing needs for any special learning process.

Can I use devices other than sold by Biocom?

No. Only Biocom devices (sold by Biocom) can be used.

Can I export results of my Heart Tracker session to other software?

No, the Heart Tracker does not have data export capabilities.

How does your product compare with the EmWave?

The EmWave is a simple portable standalone tool providing means to improve emotional balance using biofeedback technique targeted to enhancing cardiac coherence through developing an internal positive emotional shift.

The Heart Tracker is a PC based tool designed to help in reducing stress and improving autonomic balance using a well-known biofeedback technique based on slow paced breathing exercise known for centuries in many Eastern cultures. There is a strong well-studied physiological concept behind this technique, which established its scientific validity.