Emwave and Emotional self-regulation

Performance FreezeFramer Alvaro

In the post Trad­er Peak Per­for­mance and biofeed­back pro­grams we showed the Heart Rate Vari­abil­i­ty pat­terns cor­re­lat­ed with lev­els of a) anx­i­ety or b) Peak Per­for­mance, “The Zone”. Biofeed­back sup­ports our emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion: we can visu­al­ly track what is going on inside us and train our­selves to man­age our emo­tion­al state. On the left you have an exam­ple of my own per­for­mance dur­ing a 5‑minute exper­i­ment 4 months ago. At the top, you see my name; at the bot­tom, the dura­tion of the ses­sion. Right axis, for top half, is Heart Rate. (This is only the half left of the screen in the pro­gram-the right half would give you more infor­ma­tion.) I have high­light­ed sev­er­al phases:

A: you can see long waves fol­low­ing a smooth rhythm-that is the phys­i­o­log­i­cal “The Zone”, where I can per­form at max­i­mum lev­el. I was using breath­ing and visu­al­iza­tion tech­niques that are some­times called “The Men­tal Game” in ath­let­ics and sports.

B: I stressed myself. How? well, maybe think­ing of a pre­vi­ous boss, or some bad moment in my life. You see that the “waves” dis­ap­pear, and nar­row errat­ic pat­terns appear instead.

C: I quick­ly go back into “The Zone”, using a breath­ing and visu­al­iza­tion tech­nique that works for me. There are many tech­niques-the virtue of real time visu­al feed­back is that we can find what works for us. The more we train, the bet­ter we get at it.

D: the bot­tom half is show­ing the cumu­la­tive score, and whether I fall inside “The Zone”. The line goes down in the mid­dle because it reflects my anx­i­ety dur­ing phase B.

The biofeed­back pro­gram I used is emWave‚ PC Stress Relief (there is also a hand­held device called emWave PSR). It con­tains sev­er­al short “videogames” where you have to learn to relax at will in order to suc­ceed. The graph above shows the mon­i­tor option-where you can see your Heart Rate and Heart Rate Vari­abil­i­ty real-time.




  1. Tyro on November 21, 2006 at 9:47

    That’s wild. The ver­biage did­n’t con­jure up much of an image, but with this screen shot I can start to see how this sys­tem may be able to live up to its promis­es. What a great idea.

    Does the soft­ware pack­age include a heart rate mon­i­tor? Are there any reviews that you can point us to? What would a typ­i­cal sched­ule look like for a new student?

  2. Alvaro on November 21, 2006 at 11:07

    Good it helped to visu­al­ize it. I had the same reac­tion when I first saw the visu­als. It gets bet­ter when you start to see the real-time impact of your actions and thoughts on the screen-either when you are train­ing or dur­ing any nor­mal activity.


    The pack­age includes 1) the soft­ware, 2) the sen­sor (fin­ger one; you buy the ear-one for $25) that mea­sures both heart rate and heart rate vari­abil­i­ty and con­nects to your PC, so your PC acts as the heart rate mon­i­tor. (HRV, not heart rate, is the pre­dic­tor of lev­els of stress/ anx­i­ety, and to mea­sure it pre­cise­ly requires an algo­rithm that heart mon­i­tors do not have) c) a very infor­ma­tive book­let on man­ag­ing emo­tions while play­ing golf. We don’t have a trad­ing-spe­cif­ic book, but the golf one gives a great overview of what is going on inside our bod­ies and how to man­age it.


    Very recent review:


    Anoth­er one in The Econ­o­mist a cou­ple of months back:


    Sched­ule: typ­i­cal­ly, 3 or 4 times a week, for 5–7 min­utes each. The key is fre­quent prac­tice, so you inter­nal­ize the tech­niques and see progress. You could also add 4–5 ses­sions of 15–20 min­utes dur­ing the first month in order to get up to speed with the tech­niques and the program.


    For fun, why not also record what hap­pens dur­ing a typ­i­cal trad­ing ses­sion, and ana­lyze it afterwards.


    We will be adding com­mu­ni­ty forums, mod­er­at­ed by coach­es, in this web­site, so it will be eas­i­er to share expe­ri­ences and get advice. Feel free to ask more questions.

  3. eleanor on November 22, 2006 at 2:46

    That is absolute­ly mar­vel­lous — stress makes you stupid!

  4. Alvaro on November 22, 2006 at 12:19

    Eleanor: nice to see you. “stress makes you stupid!…there is good stress but also bad one, see 


    For the bad one, I agree with your state­ment, both in the short-term (we can not think well on the spot) and the long-term (because too much stress inhibits learn­ing and harms our health).

  5. James on November 10, 2007 at 12:01

    Does any­one know of a Mac OS ver­sion or anoth­er soft­ware appli­ca­tion like this one?

  6. Alvaro on November 12, 2007 at 11:59

    Hel­lo James, we are not aware of any Mac OC ver­sion. There are a cou­ple of hand­held devices (one also called emWave, the oth­er StressEras­er), with sim­i­lar tech­nol­o­gy, but give back less data.

  7. Vern M. on February 3, 2009 at 3:02

    What an inter­est­ing exper­i­ment. I must con­fess that I could have used a portable ver­sion of one of those biofeedback  devices at a few points through­out today. I’ve seen the small­er portable ver­sions, but for me more detail is much better.

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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