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Weekly Article: Introduction to Biofeedback
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Weekly Article: Introduction to Biofeedback

Maybe you already heard of it, maybe not, but one thing is sure is that everyone applied it at least once in his life. I'm talking about biofeedback. What is biofeedback exactly? It is the act of measuring quantifiable bodily functions. Let's say you are taking your heartbeat and you know it is too fast so you start deep breathing slowly to reduce it, well, you've just done some biofeedback.

Biofeedback dates as far as the 18th century and even way back if we consider that monks used methods such has meditation and their awareness of vital functions to control them. Donald Shearn in 1962 was popular for using modern biofeedback. He used operant-conditioning of heart rate on his subject. Operant-conditioning is the use of consequences to modify one's behavior. In psychology you 4 basics type of conditioning. You have positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment and negative punishment. An example of positive reinforcement would be that a dog is sitting and after he sat you give him a reward, the dog will learn thru positive reinforcement that if he sit he will get a reward. Negative reinforcement is the opposite but it doesn't mean it is bad. For example if you put your hand on the oven and burn yourself, you wil learn thru negative reinforcement that you should not do that. Positive punishment occurs when a behavior  is followed by an aversive stimulus, such as introducing a shock or a slap, resulting in a decrease in that behavior. Negative punishment occurs when a behavior is followed by the removal of a favorable stimulus, such as taking away a child's toy following an undesired behavior, resulting in a decrease in that behavior. Enough psychology and let's go back to biofeedback.

So now that we have some psychology background let's talk about the different aspects of modern biofeedback. A common machine used in biofeedback is the electromyograph or EMG. It measure muscle's action potential so the viewer can know what is going on with their muscles and use their mind to reduce the tensions as they see the information. This is why we say ''feedback'' in biofeedback because we get a feedback of the measured information.

Another commonly used tool in biofeedback is the electroencephalograph ( EEG ). It measures brainwaves. Now let's get some background about brainwaves. We have 5 kinds of brainwaves. Delta brainwaves are associated with deep sleep and dreams, for example when you are totally unconscious of what is going on even after someone gave you a little punch to wake you up. Curiously, babies spend most of their time in Delta brainwaves which means they are unconscious and not yet self-aware. Next right after Delta you have Theta ( 4 to 7 Hz while Delta are under 4 Hz ). Theta brainwaves are related to meditation, pre-sleep phase and drowsiness. Young children operate in Theta brainwaves which means they are party conscious party unconscious which explains why they learn so well and so fast because the subconscious mind is way more powerful than the conscious mind. Third on the list we have the Alpha brainwaves ( 7 to 12 Hz ). Those are the brainwaves you are emitting while being relaxed or in non-deep meditation. Beta brainwaves ( 12 to 30Hz ) are the brainwaves you are emitting the most during the day. Example while being at work and alert. Also while you are actively thinking at something. Then you have the Gamma brainwaves. Gamma brainwaves are the waves used while studying really hard and performing complex cognitive functions. They are also seen in certain motor functions such as playing an instruments and thinking about what to play.

Now that you have some background about brainwaves let's see how to use a EEG to do biofeedback and let's talk a bit about binaural beats.

So if you happen to have an EEG in front of you to measure your brainwaves well you can use such information to modify your current mind state. Let's say you are very anxious and operating in Beta brainwaves, the fact of knowing such information could tell you to relax and you can then use the information to get into an Alpha state of mind which is more relaxed and vice versa. There is something very interesting called binaural beats. Binaural beats were discovered in 1839 by Heinrich Wilhelm Dove. He discovered that by playing a frequency of 315 Hz in one ear and another frequency of 325 Hz in the other ear you would produce a beating sound only perceived by the brain of a 10 Hz frequency that would force the brain to operate in Alpha brainwaves mode. So by putting a pair of headphone on your head and listening to Alpha brainwaves you could force your brain to go into those brainwaves and therefore relax more easily or meditate easily. Binaural beats CDs can be download or bought via Internet or maybe at your local music store. For more information or resources just ask me, i have a program to make binaural beats and can give you free binaural beats.

Other tools used in biofeedback are the photoplethysmographs ( PPGs ) to measure blood flow and heart rate, pneumographs to measure abdominal and chest contraction to correct bad breathing patterns and electrodermographs to measure sweat glands to treat emotional disorders.

This will conclude the introduction to biofeedback. If you have any questions please feel free to ask and leave your comments about the article! Another article on biofeedback will be made on demand to cover the other aspects of it.

Next article will be about the HPA axis and some other aspects of stress and how to manage it.

Best regards,
M4

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15 Comments Post a Comment
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535822_tn?1389452880
Thank you I enjoyed reading your thread on biofeedback I am going to read it again to digest it ,I look forward to your article on HPA axis
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458072_tn?1291418786
yes, I too am very interested in the HPA axis, as this is causing me a deal of trouble. And you can't get western drs to even look at this.

And I enjoyed the info on biofeedback as well.  do you have any ideas on how  and which biofeedback methods could benefit adrenal and thyroid problems? I know the deep breathing helps. I did not realize it was considered biofeedback.
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Avatar_m_tn
It isn't.  Biofeedback only is when you have a machine to measure something such as sweat or body heat and then you do some relaxation exercise to turn the needle down so you learn how to do it correctly.  Meditation, breathing, etc. are great, but if you're not measuring anything it isn't biofeedback because you're not getting any biofeedback.  Meditation and breathing exercises, of course, go back as long as recorded history, and are most developed in Eastern spiritual traditions such as Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism.  It's from these ancient practices of psychology that CBT, biofeedback, etc. were developed as tools that might work better with western cultures not as inculcated in quiet and peacefulness of mind.
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1042487_tn?1275283499
I never said meditation was biofeedback. You try to find bugs where there are none. Biofeedback is the act of measure quantifiable bodily functions then using the feedback to correct something. Before modern biofeedback was invented with machines etc. taking your pule and trying to correct it with deep breathing is considered fundamentally biofeedback. I talked about monks and meditation only to talk about their awareness of bodily functions and to make a point on how biofeedback is a form of evolution of their awareness. I never said it was biofeedback

''Biofeedback dates as far as the 18th century and even way back if we consider that monks used methods such has meditation and their awareness of vital functions to control them.''

i said ''if we consider'' this is implying a if and therefore it is clear that i wasn't telling it was directly biofeedback but i wanted to give people a background in the help of understanding what is biofeedback.
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1042487_tn?1275283499
Deep breathing itself is not biofeedback. It is biofeedback if you measure your pulse do deep breathing to consciously slow down your heart beat. This is were the word feedback is from. And the feedback doesn't have to be from a machine like Paxiled mentioned. Biofeedback in fundamentally the action of measuring bodily function with the intention the change a behavior or bodily function in response to that feedback. Modern biofeedback like everybody knows and you get at biofeedback center uses machines but one is able to do his own biofeedback and it is considered biofeedback.
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Avatar_m_tn
Sorry, but I have to agree with Pax. everything that I know of biofeedback needs a device.
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Avatar_m_tn
the zona plus is a biofeedback device for lowering pressure. could you please post some
links that show how to perform biofeedback without a device.
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1042487_tn?1275283499
Modern biofeedback at centers all use devices but the definition of biofeedback and how it came to life was without the use of any device. The definition of biofeedback is the action of measuring quantifiable bodily functions to then use the information as a feedback to modify one's or self behavior. It was named biofeedback in the 1960s but it is older. There's a difference between modern biofeedback and fundamental biofeedback. Counting your heart rate then using slow breathing to modify it is an example of biofeedback without machine. Here's a book about biofeedback without machines.

http://www.amazon.com/BioFeedback-Without-Machines-Strategy-Living/dp/1889122203
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Avatar_f_tn
I have read much about this, and was advised by my psychiatrist on how to do biofeedback without the aid of a machine.  Thank goodness times have changed because we don't always have the time, or money to sit hooked up to a machine.  My doctor felt it was best that I learn to do this on my own throughout the day.  He said it would be more than just relaxation, but actually learning to control my thoughts and affects on my body thru this feedback.  He went on to explain how a machine helps one see the difference you are making, but the body has it's own machine with your pulse and breathing, etc. I learned to recognize when I was doing well with my feedback. It may be a personal choice as to what works best for an individual, but not using a machine  has worked well for me. I think this is cutting edge thinking and moving forward with this particular idea.  
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Avatar_f_tn
Thanks so much for the info.  I am going to look into the binaural beats download for sure.

The HPA is an interesting and timely subject.  Dr. Teitelbbaum mentioned the axis as a cause of chronic fatique syndrome in his book "From Fatigued to Fantastic".

Looking forward to your article,
K
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1042487_tn?1275283499
Indeed the HPA axis is an interesting subject and it as to do with biology and psychology as well. Just like biofeedback. There is a lot to be said about it and a lot of background i will have to provide to everyone in the article for a better understanding. I will include some background in biology, neurobiology and psychology might even have to include some biochemistry at some point but nothing complicated, mostly hormones. Those are the fields related to the HPA axis. So yes it's gonna be a really interesting article and probably a long one.

Thanks to everyone who liked the article,
M4
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