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A pilot exploration of heart rate variability and salivary cortisol responses to compassion-focused imagery.Rockliff, Helen; Gilbert, Paul; McEwan, Kirsten; Lightman, Stafford; Glover, David; University of Derby; Kingsway Hospital; University of Bristol; Manchester Royal Infirmary (Giovanni Fioriti Editore, 2008-06)This study measured heart-rate variability and cortisol to explore whether Compassion-Focused Imagery (CFI) could stimulate a soothing affect system. We also explored individual differences (self-reported self-criticism, attachment style and psychopathology) to CFI. Participants were given a relaxation, compassion-focused and control imagery task. While some individuals showed an increase in heart rate variability during CFI, others had a decrease. There was some indication that this was related to peoples self-reports of self-criticism, and attachment style. Those with an increase in heart rate variability also showed a significant cortisol decrease. Hence, CFI can stimulate a soothing affect system and attenuate hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity in some individuals but those who are more self-critical, with an insecure attachment style may require therapeutic interventions to benefit from CFI.