When Denver sport and performance psychologist Steve Portenga, PhD, first started providing therapy to athletes, he taught them breathing and relaxation exercises to practice at home. But he often doubted whether the athletes were doing their homework correctly, if at all.
“I’d ask them how their relaxation went over the past week and was getting answers like, ‘Oh, yeah…right.'” he says. The replies left him thinking, “You didn’t do it, did you?”
Then Portenga learned about biofeedback—a tool that provides empirical evidence of physiological activity, such as heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension, skin temperature and brain wave patterns. Using sensors connected to displays, he and his clients could see how their bodies reacted to stress and to stress-reduction exercises. Athletes can also train with biofeedback apps at home and these sessions can be tracked, to see not only that they do their homework, but how well it works.
Portenga says he appreciates not just biofeedback’s ability to provide accountability, but the way it has helped his athletes learn to handle competitive pressure. He has used the technique with athletes in every major professional sport, including at Super Bowls, world championships and the Olympics.
Sedentary behavior is the new norm as most jobs do not require active movement. Sitting in a car instead of walking, standing on the escalator instead of walking up the stairs, using an electric mixer instead of whipping the eggs by hand, sending a text instead of getting up and talking to a co-worker in the next cubicle, buying online instead of walking to the brick and mortar store, watching TV shows, streaming movies, or playing computer games instead of socializing with actual friends, are all examples how the technological revolution has transformed our lives. The result is sitting disease which we belief can mitigate by daily exercise.
The research data is very clear– exercise does not totally reverse the health risks of sitting. In the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, researchers Matthews and colleagues (Matthews et al, 2012) completed an 8.5 year follow up on 240,819 adults (aged 50–71 year) who at the beginning baseline surveys did not report any cancer, cardiovascular disease, or respiratory disease.
Kirk Cousins is poised to make over $30 Million dollars per year in his next NFL contract. He was selected 102nd overall in the fourth round of the NFL draft. Cousins played in a few NFL games before he was relocated to the bench. He would lack focus and let the disappointments in the game “get into his head”. This is when his journey began with neurofeedback training.
Cousins wanted to learn to cope with the stresses of the game and improve his mental performance. Neurofeedback and biofeedback gave him the ability to perform under pressure and maintain focus. Performance and stress levels have always been large part of any sport or competition. It is common knowledge that you can perform better when less stressed. This type of mental training has helped executives, athletes, pilots, students and just about anyone looking to improve their “mental edge” or optimize their brain. Below I’ve included several links where Cousins talks about how Neurofeedback made the difference in his game.
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — If you think your child is among the 11 percent of children 4 to 17 years old the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may want to consider an objective tool that some doctors believe offers a more precise diagnosis for social disorders.
Dr. Ron Swatzyna at the Tarnow Center for Self-Management in Houston offers QEEG or brain mapping to his patients, including children.
Non-invasive, painless electrodes are placed on key parts of the patient’s scalp. Brain waves are measured and then mapped on a computer where a diagnostician can identify if brain waves are too active or too slow and compare them to the development of other children of the same age.
Many children are diagnosed with anxiety, ADHD, autism and social disorders through a subjective process in which teachers and parents observe their behavior. However, Dr. Swatzyna says brain mapping allows an objective way to collect data.
Technology that compares your brain’s electrical activity to everyone else’s could revolutionize mental-health treatments—or worsen people’s obsessions with perfection.
The woman who would be mapping my brain, Cynthia Kerson, had tanned, toned arms and long silvery hair worn loose. Her home office featured an elegant calligraphy sign reading “BREATHE,” and also a mug that said “I HAVE THE PATIENCE OF A SAINT.”
Summary: A new study reveals how playing video games not only changes how our brain functions, but also the structure of the brain.
Studies investigating how playing video games can affect the brain have shown that they can cause changes in many brain regions.
Scientists have collected and summarized studies looking at how video games can shape our brains and behavior. Research to date suggests that playing video games can change the brain regions responsible for attention and visuospatial skills and make them more efficient. The researchers also looked at studies exploring brain regions associated with the reward system, and how these are related to video game addiction.
Do you play video games? If so, you aren’t alone. Video games are becoming more common and are increasingly enjoyed by adults. The average age of gamers has been increasing, and was estimated to be 35 in 2016. Changing technology also means that more people are exposed to video games. Many committed gamers play on desktop computers or consoles, but a new breed of casual gamers has emerged, who play on smartphones and tablets at spare moments throughout the day, like their morning commute. So, we know that video games are an increasingly common form of entertainment, but do they have any effect on our brains and behavior?
After having constant abdominal pain, severe cramps, and losing 15 pounds from IBS, I found myself in the hospital bed where all the doctors could offer me was morphine to reduce the pain. I searched on my smart phone for other options. I saw that abdominal breathing could help. I put my hands on my stomach and tried to expand it while I inhaled. All that happened was that my chest expanded and my stomach did not move. I practiced and practiced and finally, I could breathe lower. Within a few hours, my pain was reduced. I continued breathing this way many times. Now, two years later, I no longer have IBS and have regained 20 pounds. – 21-year old woman who previously had severe IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome(IBS) affects between 7% to 21% of the general population and is a chronic condition. The symptoms usually include abdominal cramping, discomfort or pain, bloating, loose or frequent stools and constipation and can significantly reduce the quality of life (Chey et al, 2015). A precursor of IBS in children is called recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) which affects between 0.3 to 19% of school children (Chitkara et al, 2005). Both IBS and RAP appear to be functional illnesses, as no organic causes have been identified to explain the symptoms. In the USA, this results in more than 3.1 physician visits and 5.9 million prescriptions written annually. The total direct and indirect cost of these services exceeds $20 billion (Chey et al, 2015). Multiple factors may contribute to IBS, such as genetics, food allergies, previous treatment with antibiotics, severity of infection, psychological status and stress. More recently, changes in the intestinal and colonic microbiome resulting in small intestine bacterial overgrowth are suggested as another risk factor (Dupont, 2014).
DENVER (CBS4)– About a dozen former Denver Broncos, some from the Orange Crush era, are taking part in a research study they say is helping them recover from post-concussion symptoms and traumatic brain injuries. They believe those injuries were suffered during their playing days.
After going through the protocol, “It was kind of like night and day,” said former Denver Broncos offensive lineman Dave Studdard, “The light came back on, clarity just everywhere.”
Studdard spent 10 seasons with the Broncos from 1979-1988.
CBS4 was on hand as Studdard went through one of his final sessions at New Hope For the Brain, a Lakewood based performance and rehabilitation center. Studdard said he believes he suffered from as many as 200 concussions during his days protecting Bronco quarterbacks like John Elway and Craig Morton.
He said concussion protocol in his playing days consisted of “Take a play off then come back in.” A few years ago, Studdard said he noticed he “couldn’t get anything clear in my mind… a constant fog. I felt like I was in a big fog and didn’t know how to get out.”
Setting a personal best and winning the Gold medal is a remarkable feat. Jo Aita, age 46 and weighing 58 kg, set the Masters World Records and Masters Games Records in Snatch, Clean & Jerk and Total Olympic weight lifting at the World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand, April 26th, 2017. She lifted 71 kg in the Snatch and 86 kg in the Clean and Jerk Olympic lifts in the 45-49-year-old age group (see video in figure 1). What makes this more remarkable is that her combined lifts were 3 kilograms more than her life-time best in previous competition. She refuted the conventional wisdom that weight lifters peak in their mid to late twenties. There is hope for improvement as aging may not mean we have to decline.
There are many factors–and many more which we do not know–which contribute to this achievement such as genetics, diligent training and superb coaching at the Max’ Gym in Oakland as a member of Team Juggernauts. In the last three years, Jo Aita also incorporated biofeedback and visualization training to help optimize her performance. This report summarizes how breathing and electromyography feedback combined with imagery may have contributed to achieving her personal best. As Jo Aita stated, “I recommend this to everyone and hope that you can work with athletes in my gym.”
Components of the 30 sessions of biofeedback, internal language and visualization training program
The training was started in September 2014 to reduce anxiety and improve performance. The components embedded in the training are listed sequentially; however, training did not occur sequentially. They were dynamically interwoven throughout the many sessions and augmented with homework practices, as well as storytelling of other people achieving success using similar approaches. The major components included:
1. Mastering effortless slow diaphragmatic breathing in which the abdomen expanded during inhalations and constricted during exhalation. The respiration feedback and training was recorded with BioGraph Infinity respiration sensors and recorded from the abdomen and upper chest. Her homework included monitoring situations where she held her breath and then anticipate breath holding by continuing to breathe. She also practiced slower breathing with heart rate variability feedback from a Stress Eraser. Practicing these allowed her to become centered and regenerate more quickly. As she stated, “It helped me during the day when I am anxious to calm down.” Throughout the training, the focus was to use breathing to rapidly regenerate after exertion especially after training.
2. Learning to relax her shoulder muscles with electromyography (EMG) feedback to regenerate and learn awareness of minimal trapezius muscle tension. She could use this awareness to identify her emotional reactivity (Peper, Booiman, Lin, & Shaffer, 2014). Often emotional reactivity increases muscle tension. She learned to relax here muscles quickly after muscle contractions to allow regeneration
When Rob Stephens, a 22-year-old senior, walks into the Mindfulness Room at Carnegie Mellon University, he leaves his homework and stress at the door.
He is surrounded by a waterfall wall, plants, lots of natural light and an open space with cushions on the floor — a 24/7 space is set aside for meditation or just peaceful thinking.
“I definitely think it helps to de-stress,” said Stephens, a global studies major from Atlanta, Georgia. “It’s the time I spend making sure I am OK.”
Mindfulness is as popular at colleges nationwide as it is now at CMU.
“It’s someone giving themselves uninterrupted mental space,” said Stephens. “Some focus on themselves or others. It’s a time to stop and refocus your purpose.”
Studies show the practice may be an antidote to the high levels of stress and depression seen on college campuses.
The American College Health Association found in a 2015 study that more than 85 percent said they “felt overwhelmed” by the demands of college. And a third of all student said stress had a negative effect on their overall academic performance.