Heart rate variability in gaming methods and preliminary results

Ingegard E. Malmros, MD

Karolinska Institute, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Stockholm, Sweden


Abstract

        Background: Both the civil and military authorities are introducing computer programs, similar to games, as educational tools and for medical treatment. Analyses of the users psychophysiological responses have become a valuable tool within media research. The aim of this study was to evaluate a method for capturing HRV (heart rate variability) data related to war-like events in a computer game. Methods and subjects: Six participants (one female) 1937 years of age played an action game tutorial three times each. The measured variables were various HRV parameters, obtained with the mobile POLAR 810i device. These values were analyzed in relation to events in the computer game, captured by video recordings. Results: The result indicates that the methods with the mobile POLAR 810i and video-recorders fulfil the basal requirements for capturing intended data. The HRV analyses, with the curves coupled to the video monitored game on the screen, showed features indicating a relation between game events and the HF (High Frequency) and LF (Low Frequency) power. There were great differences between subjects in absolute HRV values but the response pattern to game events was similar within subjects. The HF power was significantly reduced (PJ0,001) when computer gaming (428 ms2) compared with resting in a supine position (1613 ms2). The LF/HF-ratio was also significantly higher when gaming (340 ms2) compared with resting (94 ms2) indicating a depressed parasympathetic drive which favours the sympathetic one. In media research the HF component of HRV is usually called RSA (Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia). Conclusion: Psychophysiological responses appeared to be related to events in a war-like computer game. HRV seemed to be a useful and easily obtainable measure.
Key words: computer game, heart rate variability, HRV, psychophysiological responses, RSA.