From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published February 14, 2013 02:04 PM

Syncing Heartbeats

It is said that when you're in love, your heart starts racing. Why? It's an adrenaline rush where our brains send signals to the adrenal gland, which secretes hormones that flow through the blood and cause our hearts to beat faster and stronger. Not only do our hearts race independently, but according to a University of California, Davis study, lovers' hearts indeed beat for each other, or at least at the same rate.

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UC Davis psychology professor, Emilio Ferrer, has conducted a series of studies on couples in romantic relationships, and found that couples' heart rates can in fact sync, and that they can start to breathe in and out at the same intervals. While it seems plausible that we would be able to control our breathing to match our partners, how can we change our heartbeat?

To collect data, researchers conducted a series of three exercises, sitting 32 heterosexual couples a few feet away from each other in a quiet, calm room. The couples did not speak or touch, however they were hooked up to monitors that captured oscillations in respiration and heart rate in order to examine the interdependence in the physiological signals between them.

In one of the exercises, couples were asked to sit across from each other and mimic each other, but still not speak, and researchers collected very similar results. Results show that associations were detectable within all three tasks, with different patterns of coupling within each task.

The researchers also mixed up the data from the couples and had participants complete the tasks with different partners. When the two individuals were not from the same couple, their hearts did not show synchrony, nor did their breathing closely match.

"We've seen a lot of research that one person in a relationship can experience what the other person is experiencing emotionally, but this study shows they also share experiences at a physiological level," Ferrer said.

Additionally, both partners showed similar patterns of heart rate and respiration, but women tended to adjust theirs to their partners more. This was true not only for physiological but for day-to-day emotional experiences as well.

"In other words, we found that women adjust in relationship to their partners," said Jonathan Helm, a UC Davis psychology doctoral student and primary author of the study. "Her heart rate is linked to her partner's. I think it means women have a strong link to their partners — perhaps more empathy."

Read more at UC Newsroom.

Heart rate image via Shutterstock.

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