Why I Love Biofeedback
by Gary Ames
- Biofeedback is elegant. Biofeedback is behavior guided by direct interaction with a physiological display reflecting nervous system activity. The effect is to develop the range and flexibility of the nervous system. The goal is to improve psycho-physiological self-regulation through self awareness and self-control. It is like many things: training, growing, exercise, mediation, stress reduction, etc.
- Effective. We can use whole numbers to speak of remediation of symptoms of chronic conditions in percent per hour. Recovery of 2-5% per hour for biofeedback intervention is typical.
- Pervasive benefits. Biofeedback can target emotional lability, sensory regulation, executive mental functions, and physical well being. Yet reports of side benefits are the norm. For example, there is little research or effort to improve quality of sleep, but this is frequently reported spontaneously.
- Results are sustained in the long term. Neurofeedback tends to be more enduring than peripheral biofeedback.
- High success rates. Overall, ~60-90% success rates are the norm across the broad for the range of conditions seen by biofeedback practitioners.
- Broadly useful. Neurofeedback treats many kinds of disorders, conditions and symptoms. Both genetic and acquired problems are resolved.
Brain: seizures, stroke, traumatic brain injury, coma, migraine.
Lifestyle: drug & alcohol addictions, eating disorders, criminality.
Arousal: stress, anxiety, headache, OCD, anger, PTSD.
Chronic: asthma, IBS, TMJ, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, immune suppression, depression, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain, psychological trauma.
Women: PMS, menopause, hot flashes, infertility.
Not just kids: ADHD, autism, Asperger’s, Tourette’s, tics, learning disorders.
- Biofeedback works at the site of the disorder to remediate the mechanism of action. Everyone agrees that the brain and nervous system are the physiological source of behavior and psychopathology. Brain waves are an elegant point of intervention. There are many studies that show normalization of EEG brain maps. Here is one using fMRI:
- Accepted by academia. Biofeedback is taught in the textbooks of many fields. MDs are trained in biofeedback in medical school. Biofeedback works on animals. The fundamental concepts are accepted and not controversial.
- Biofeedback promotes excellence. Biofeedback can be used to enhance optimal flow and functioning without a problem-orientation. Just as aerobic cross training helps all athletes, conditioning the nervous system enhances all endeavors. This year the U.S. Army will train officers with biofeedback for mental focus and emotional resilience. The best performance research is with athletes and musicians. Google: Italian soccer biofeedback.
- Clients are able to withdraw from psychoactive medications without a resurgence of symptoms.
- Adverse effects are rare, minor and self-limiting.
- The experience of biofeedback is typically pleasant, interesting and relaxing.
- Organic path to healing. Recovery is gradual and cumulative.
- Flexible application. There are biofeedback training approaches that need no diagnosis or special protocols. On the other hand, psychophysiological profiles or brain maps can be used to guide biofeedback treatment. Some biofeedback devices are inexpensive and hand held. The technology is advancing rapidly.
- Diverse research with compelling results. See this comprehensive 16-page bibliography http://www.isnr.org/uploads/compbiblio.pdf
These two sites have some journal abstracts available.
Here is Aetna’s policy of medical necessity for biofeedback for 10 conditions. http://www.aetna.com/cpb/medical/data/100_199/0132.html.
Key point: there are hundreds of studies about diverse conditions with varied measures. Three examples:
· Four studies document an average increase in IQ of 15-points for those with ADHD.
· New technology for migraine shows 94% success rate in 6 sessions.
· Recidivism for felons was cut to 15%.
- I am impressed by the professionals I have met and interacted with. They are sincere, credible and dedicated. See these two associations:
www.aapb.org Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback
www.isnr.org International Society of Neurofeedback and Research.
- There are neurotechnologies related to biofeedback. For example, based on extensive research, Cranial Electrical Stimulation is approved by the FDA for anxiety, depression and insomnia. But like biofeedback it is vastly under-utilized.