Background: The present study aimed to determine the psychophysiological changes induced in subjects by standard autogenic training (AT). Physiological measurements were taken under strict experimental conditions. Methods: Thirty-one healthy students were divided randomly into two groups: the AT group and the control group. In the first session, the physiological variables were measured for all students before and after all were asked to relax in their own way. The AT group were then taught AT for 3 months, after which time the measurements were repeated. In the second session, the AT group practised the standard AT exercise, while the control group repeated their own form of simple relaxation. Electrocardiogram, plethysmogram (PTG) and blood pressure (BP) were measured while the students carried out a breathing rate of 15 cycles/min. The R-R intervals and BP were analysed by an autoregressive model for spectral analysis, and the data were compared by repeated-measures ANOVA. Results: The AT group had a significant increase in the mean R-R interval and a significant decrease in the baseline deflection of the PTG in the second session. There were no significant changes in sympathetic activity except for the change in the PTG, although low frequency amplitude of systolic BP decreased slightly. Conclusions: AT was found to induce significant changes that were independent of respiration in healthy students, although paced breathing might have operated as a mental stress. The increase in mean R-R interval and the decrease in baseline deflection of the PTG were the most robust correlates of AT.

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