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VedaPulse Review

By Alex Duncan, Ph.D.

Thursday, 9 February 17

Overview

According to the website of VedaPulse (www.vedapulse.com)  “VedaPulse is a hardware and software kit for performing pulse analysis and creating an individual rehabilitation program based on naturopathy.”

The company make a number of hardware products. The VedaPulse Professional and VedaPulse Home are electrocardiogram (ECG) reading devices that connect to a software module. The software is sold with additional plugins. See http://vedapulse.com/extensions/. My interest was with the NIDAN extension, which intends to provide detailed information about Ayurvedic Subdosha, Dhatu and Pancha Maha Bhutas.

I reviewed the VedaPulse Professional unit plus the basic software module version 09112016 13.6.2.12. I also evaluated the NIDAN plug-in module (http://vedapulse.com/nidan) as well as the TREATMENT module which proposes various treatment options ranging from general Ayurvedic lifestyle advice to specific herbal treatments, yoga postures, etc.

In the later part of 2016, VedaPulse sent out publicity to many Ayurvedic practitioners in France and no doubt the rest of Europe. After receiving their publicity, I naturally searched the internet to see if anyone had reviewed their products. All I found was an article by VedaPulse discussing Dr Vasant Lad’s endorsement, as well as another review by Dr Sircus. Neither of these reviews convinced me that the product could diagnose reliable Ayurvedic measures of physiology based on pulse reading. So rather than buying one, I decide to rent one for a couple of months on a trial basis.

Hardware

The VedaPulse Pro hardware consists of a fairly small and light black box, two wrist clamps (which connect to the box via a special cable). The box connects to PC computer via a USB cable.

Setup and initial impression

The software and hardware was easy to install on my Windows PC. However, there was an annoying bug that required me to change my operating system (Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit) date format to RUSSIAN otherwise I couldn’t create any new patient entries! A minor annoyance and no doubt resolvable.

Once I got to grips with the software, it was quite easy to use the device and access results. Over a period of about 4 weeks I took roughly 40 readings on myself and several readings from other people.

The image below is showing the main RESULTS > ACADEMIC > HRV tab :

My first surprise was to find that the device measures Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and basic Heart Rate (derived from an ECG electrical signal) as opposed to pressure measurements of the radial pulse. In other words the device does not measure your mechanical pulse in the classical sense.

From the raw data collected over a standard 5 minute session, the VedaPulse software appears only to use the HRV signal as its raw data input. The HRV signal is then transformed into a number of time and frequency based parameters as shown below:

No explanation as to how to interpret these variables is given in the software, nor on their website. In order to know what “RRNN, SDNN, RMSSD etc.” (time based values) mean, as well as the other frequency based measures, you need to study literature about HRV science. VedaPulse have produced some webinars which attempt to explain the relevance of these measures, and their correlation to a modern and Ayurvedic understanding of physiology.

Digging deeper

Over the last few weeks, I have spent many hours reading scientific journal papers on the subject of HRV science to no great end. The current scientific community doesn’t have that much to say about the use of HRV as a disease predictor or pathology evaluation tool. With the exception of certain heart disease conditions, and diabetes, there is little hard scientific research on other uses of HRV.

Outside the mainstream medical community, there is some interest in in the sport health and fitness community. Here, HRV monitors are being used in conjunction with smartphone apps to monitor HRV levels at rest and during different activities including sport. These apps essentially follow you HRV readings on a daily basis and suggest that you alter your training according to the trends in the HRV variables. The main insight that I gained from these domains are that your long term HRV trend can indicate how stressed you are. Low HRV (less variability) is considered a poor indication, whereas high variability a good one. The community has outlined some general guidelines for HRV measurements. Two common protocols are mentioned: 5 minute readings, and 24 hour readings.

As an aside to this review of the VedaPulse system, I purchased a cheap HRV chest monitor from amazon for about 30 euros. It works with my iPhone. The basic HRV variables that it measures are the same as the VedaPulse. I checked the accuracy of the RMSSD and SDNN variables (time based measures of HRV) and the margin of error between VedaPulse and the cheap chest unit was very small. In other words, for about 30 euros + a smart phone you can own a simple portable HRV monitoring system that calculates the basic HRV variables similar to those produced by the VedaPulse system. In addition, and unlike  VedaPulse, this cheap solution allows you to monitor long sessions whilst on the go. Since VedaPulse costs considerably more (over €1000 by the time you add in some software extensions) I am asking myself “what else does it contain that justifies the difference in price?” I am hoping that it has some nice Dosha evaluation tricks up its sleeve.

So the first thing I studied is the RESULTS > CONSTITUTION > BALANCE tab which gives a reading of the current state of the three Doshas. This is what it looks like:

This tab gives basic information on the nature of the “pulse” and some Dosha concepts. My first concern is the way the speed of the pulse seems to be mapped to Dosha. From studying my 40 or so readings, I was able to determine by approximation the “rule” (or “algorithm” in geek talk) that the software uses, which goes like this :

Very slow heart rate (HR) > Kapha Vikriti

Slow HR > Kapha Balance

Less slow HR > Pitta Balance

Moderate HR > Pitta Vikriti

Quick HR > Vata Balance

Quicker HR > Vata Vikriti

This interpretation worries me, as it seems overly simplistic and potentially useless. It would be better to just state that the pulse rate is what it is, rather than translate to Dosha. For example, a slow pulse may be due to high Kapha. But it may also in some cases be due to low Bala. Low Bala (force) is often a sign of a more deep seated Vata imbalance relating to exhaustion. A high pulse rate can be due to high Pitta as well as high Vata.

I have no idea how VedaPulse measures the Bala (intensity) nor Temperature of the pulse since the device only measures heart rate and HRV. There is no thermocouple nor pressure sensor. So these parameters are being derived from the HRV signal, I assume. Before moving on to the frequency spectrum aspect of VedaPulse, I will stay on the objective comparison of the current CONSTITUTION tab.

However, my biggest concern at this point is the extent to which the result fluctuates over a very short period of time. To demonstrate this, I took several readings over several days whilst healthy.

 (As an aside, I should say that my general state of health is good. I am 42 years old, male. I live and breathe Ayurveda. I have no disease, only mild niggles from time to time. My body type is Vata dominant. My niggles are invariably forms of accumulated Vata Dosha. I have secondary Kapha type niggles. On the whole I am underweight and closer to a mild deficiency spectrum in terms of overall vitality. Most of this is coherent with Vata Prakriti.)

As I was saying, I made several sets of measurements, one after the other (5 mins per session) and found that subsequent readings showed significant differences in the DOSHA result. Here are some examples for you to see for yourself.

Reading taken at 14:55 :

Reading taken 16:01 (immediately after the first reading) :

Reading taken at 15:07, right after the 2nd reading :

In the above three readings, no conditions changed other than time ! My body position, and breathing remained identical. Although there were no major differences (all readings for all Doshas are in the so called healthy “green” zone) notice that the dominant Doshas are Vata, then Kapha, then Pitta respectively.

Here are another group of readings :

In the above case, the differences are less flagrant.

I should note at this point that the nature of HRV is innately highly variable, and especially sensitive to breathing rate and subsequent depth. It is very important to ensure that when you take the reading you are in a steady natural baseline state. I.e. neither agitate nor overly relaxed. Your breath rate must be natural as opposed to forced or controlled. And yet, despite my best efforts, and even for readings that were close together by a few minutes, my readings were at times significantly different.

In fact, while having dinner professor and researcher from Edinburgh University, I learned that among the scientific community in the West, HRV has experienced a lot of attention. Her sentiment is that most people she has talked to have shared that the HRV is at first an exciting new measurement to explore. But after a few years of working with it, researchers (outside of primary cardiac disease) abandon it. Their reason being that it is a highly changeable signal that offers up no secrets in terms of useful correlates to the fitness or other biological or epigenetic measures they were studying. In other words, though full of initial promise, HRV is turning out to be a bit of a flop !

Next on the menu : the NIDAN extension

The main thing I wanted to explore was the SUBDOSHA tab in VedaPulse. Below are the screen shots of several readings. Again, the subsequent readings in each set are taken immediately after each other. As well as showing the SUBDOSHA tab results, I have included the SPECTRUM graph. By comparing these, it is possible to see a rough correlation between the form of the SPECTRUM and the SUBDOSHA histogram plot. It is evident that the two are related. And my hunch that the SUBDOSHA plot is derived from the SPECTRUM data was confirmed when I wrote to VedaPulse. My question was :

“I would also like to know more about the SUBDOSHA tab. It looks to me like there is a high correlation between the Frequency Spectrum of the HRV and the respective amplitudes of the Sub Doshas categories. If I understood correctly, the VLF component maps to Vata (assumption that when CNS energy increases, Vata increases), the LF component to Pitta (sympathetic branch of ANS / fight or flight) and the HF component to Kapha (Rest and Digest)? So have these three divisions (VLF, LF and HF) been divided into sub-frequency bins and then assigned to Sub Doshas?”

And the reply from VedaPulse :

“You are right that VLF component is connected in a greater degree to the Vata-dosha, LF – to Pitta and HF – to Kapha and for the analysis of the sub-doshas we use the spectral analysis.”

Just to fill in a theoretical gap, here is a text I lifted from somewhere (probably one of the VedaPulse articles on their website:

In 1988, S. A. Dudin and Ch. Z. Tsydypov (Buryat Institute of Natural Sciences, Siberian Department of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the Buryat branch) in searching for connections between the ideas of Tibetan and modern medicine have come to the conclusion that, despite the lack of the modern equivalents of Tibetan medicine concepts such as Wind, Bile and Phlegm (which are the fundamental concepts in Tibetan medicine), the connection is very clearly seen if we analyze in terms of modern medicine symptoms of diseases that manifested in imbalance of Wind, Bile and Phlegm.

In particular:


1. Disorders of Wind are very similar to the diseases of the central nervous system, combined by the general term “neurosis”.


2. Intensification of Bile exactly describes the processes of amplification of sympathetic autonomic nervous system.


3. Signs of Phlegm disorder are similar to processes of amplification of parasympathetic autonomic nervous system.

Taking this information into account, and adding the modern knowhow of HRV, one can make the following three statements :

1.     The VLF (very low frequency) component of the HRV frequency spectrum correlates to increased central nervous system regulation of the heart which in turn (by deduction from above notions) relates to an increase of the Wind (Vata principle) of nervous system regulation.

2.    The LF (low frequency) component of the HRV frequency spectrum correlates to increased sympathetic branch (or ANS) regulation of the heart which in turn (by deduction from above notions) relates to an increase of the Bile (Pitta principle) of nervous system regulation.

3.     The HF (high frequency) component of the HRV frequency spectrum correlates to increased para-sympathetic branch (or ANS) regulation of the heart which in turn (by deduction from above notions) relates to an increase of the Phlegm (Kapha principle) of nervous system regulation.

The theory of the VedaPulse HRV spectrum analysis says that the current state of Doshas can be deduced by the relative amounts of energy in the three common frequency bands of HRV, the so called VLF, LF and HF bands.

I’ll leave the reader to decide whether this supposition seems reasonable or not, as I for one lack a thorough knowledge of the human nervous system. But my hunch is that the creators of VedaPulse, and indeed many of the people who belong to a fringe science group investigating HRV for holistic health, are guilty of falling into the all too easy trap of wishful thinking. An example of this could be said to exist between the way that Deepak Chopra invokes Quantum Physics theory as proof of Vedic knowledge and many of its claims about the nature of creation and reality. I have at least 6 books on my bookshelf that discuss Quantum Physics from the esoteric standpoint. One of the problems is that none of the authors are actually expert in Quantum Physics. The colorations between Vedic tradition and Quantum Physics are at best poetical and metaphorical, and at worst misleading. Anyway, I digress. Back to the task at hand.

So from the DOSHA tab which displays DOSHA levels (which correlate to overall energy in the VLF, LF and HF bands), we have the SUBDOSHA tab that goes further. And as you can see, it appears that these three primary bands are divided into sub-bands which allegedly correspond to the 15 subdosha groups. I am thinking to myself “wow, how convenient”. With 3 years of 128-channel EEG analysis, I can tell you one thing; nature is never so kind to us engineers ! So yes, you are now detecting a serious whiff of cynicism. Still, let’s have a look at the results, and see for ourselves how the close together grouped readings compare in the SUBDOSHA tab :

First SPECTRUM versus SUBDOSHA group of 3 readings close together :

Reading 1 : Sleshaka in the mild red

Reading 2 : Prana, Alochaka and Kledaka in the moderate red

Reading 3 : Prana in the red, and Sleshaka in the high red

Second SPECTRUM versus SUBDOSHA group of 2 readings close together :

Versus

Treatment extension exploration

I should say that by the time I got this far in my exploration of VedaPulse (about 2 weeks in) I was already feeling very sceptical about its viability and usefulness. When I began to look at the TREATMENT module, my heart sank even further. Cutting to the chase, this is what we are dealing with :

1.     Measure the HRV for 5 minutes.

2.    From this highly changeable, map it to the three Doshas.

3.     From the Dosha result, provide a weighted list of possible foods, herbs, supplements, yoga poses etc. in a algorithmic manner from a database of hundreds of dravyas.

Take a look at the lists below (first supplements, then herbs) that come from two readings taken only minutes apart :

Anyone who actually used this in practice would do no better in my opinion that rolling a dice or spinning a fork. VedaPulse is an expensive alternative, and shaping up to be a real contradiction. On the one hand, someone as famed as Dr Vasant LAD is happy to be endorsing the system, and on the other, look at what happens when you test it on a healthy adult with identical conditions between close readings.

Preliminary verdict

As you can see, I have not explored whether the readings of DOSHA and SUBDOSHA match my personal DOSHA and health profile. Why, because the readings are all over the place. Or at least, on an initial investigation, I became overwhelmed by the degree of variance between readings taken one after the other. Can this really be of any use with such variability?

Secondly, I was disappointed to see how the SUBDOSHA algorithm seems to overly conveniently extract its reading from a simple division of the HRV spectrum into sub-bands. Having spent 7 years in academia including doctoral studies spanning the Electronics, Music and Phycology departments, with a fairly broad literature review of the applications involving Digital Signal Processing of human biological data; the VedaPulse Nidan module smells highly fishy to me.

My verdict? VedaPulse Professional is at best worthy of careful trials by Ayurvedic students with nothing better to do and a lot of spare time; and at worst a potentially dangerous gimmick (if one was to actually prescribe from its TREATMENT module).

For me, the fact the VedaPulse includes the TREATMENT module totally trashes my respect for them as a company. And then there is the fact that they have their own line of supplements in the pipeline as well as pricy and numerous highly esoteric software extensions (plugins) that claim to measure CHAKRA functioning…

Despite my findings and negative feelings. I must add that I am a sole voice among few who seem to have evaluated the system who are not in some way connected to or endorsing the device. It would be wise to invite a more thorough evaluation of their product and share the results in the open community.

Please send comments to info@ayurvedasource.fr. Note, the author welcomes intelligent discussion. However, he cannot promise to reply to all communications.

About the author

Alex Duncan is a practicing Ayurvedic Educator and teacher living in France. Before coming to Ayurveda, he studied Electronics Engineering at Glasgow University in Scotland. His doctorate involved multi-channel EEG (brainwave) analysis. His background in this field (biological data analysis and digital signal processing) as well as his work in Ayurveda gave him reason to explore the VedaPulse system.

 

Ayurveda Source, Gardoussel, 30940 St Andre de Valborgne, France

tel : 09 64 28 32 71 / 06 43 06 24 22 email : info@ayurvedasource.fr
Copyright © 2011-2014 Alex Duncan | SIRET 45227817900026

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