Using objective data to improve performance

Psychologists are using biofeedback to help clients identify and change their physical responses to stress and more

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.

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Research Study finds Pip helps reduce stress

Research conducted by Trinity College Dublin found that using Pip can effectively reduce stress.

The study, “Smartphone applications utilizing biofeedback can aid stress reduction”, compared the use of the Pip’s companion Apps with a conventional gaming App with 50 university students. It concluded that using Pip significantly reduced the short-term psychological and physiological signs of stress. These findings were recently published in Frontiers of Psychology, a leading peer-reviewed psychology journal.

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Can Virtual Reality Cure My (Really Weird) Phobia?

One night last fall, I kayaked with about 15 other tourists out into an empty bay on Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico, to see some famous glowing microorganisms. The bay was large, the moon small, the blackness almost total. I shared a boat with my husband and toddler, trailing a logorrheic guide who stopped periodically to expound in broken English on the dinoflagellates’ life cycle before disappearing again into the mist up ahead. Our paddles pierced the water in delicious sunbursts of bright bluish-yellow; we chatted with some newlyweds from Chicago. I congratulated myself for being the kind of parent who lets her kid stay up past ten to witness miracles of nature.

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How Emory University Counseling and Psychological Services’ Dana Wyner uses biofeedback

We are often asked by counselors in counseling programs how they can incorporate biofeedback in to their counseling programs.  Helping students cope with stress and offering an avenue for counseling services is a very valuable commodity to any university and its student body. Dr Wyner and Emory University have an excellent counseling program at Emory and asked her Emorys’ model This is from the desk of Dr Wyner:

This is the core of the letter that I send to counseling center psychologists who ask me how we run our program…

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Emory University Student Counseling Program Helping Students Cope with Stress

Great article about the student counseling program at Emory University. See the full story below.

“As the calm and collected overseer of Eagles at Ease Stress Management Services, Dana Wyner ’04 PhD encourages her clients to take a mental mini holiday, go limp like JELL-O and feel snug as a bug in a rug.

Those practical lessons for relaxation on the go are particularly helpful during exam time, when nerves are frayed and performance anxieties go into overdrive.

The Student Counseling Center Stress Clinic, funded by Emory’s new mental health fee, sees more than 30 students each semester for issues such as test-taking anxiety, phobias, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, headaches and hypertension. Services include helping students develop a personalized toolbox of positive coping strategies, small group training in relaxation skills and biofeedback, and individualized therapy sessions.”

Read the full article at Emory.edu

What is BCIA? Why is BCIA Certification Important?

What Is the Role of the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA)?

BCIA serves as the certification body for the clinical practice of biofeedback and neurofeedback, including Pelvic Floor Muscle Dysfunction Biofeedback. BCIA serves as the standard bearer for the fields of biofeedback and neurofeedback.  The BCIA mission statement is quite simple:

            BCIA certifies individuals who meet education and training standards in

            biofeedback and neurofeedback, and progressively recertifies those who

            advance their knowledge through continuing education.

 It is apparent from this mission statement that education and training should be the main focus for BCIA– and they are!  Where does the educational process start?

It all starts with the blueprints of knowledge.  BCIA’s Board of Directors has spent countless hours reviewing the science and the literature on biofeedback, neurofeedback, and self-regulation to ensure that the three blueprints carefully outline the fundamental science, history, and theory of the modalities and thus set templates for what every beginning clinician needs to know.  As the science and clinical efficacy literature have evolved, we have revised the blueprints to keep pace and to truly represent current best practice.

BCIA can only add information to our blueprints when efficacy has been scientifically established. We recommend that you read LaVaque and colleagues’ (2002) informative “Template for developing guidelines for the evaluation of the clinical efficacy of psychophysiological evaluations.” Additionally, the BCIA blueprints must be free of commercial bias. Once beginners can understand the accepted fundamental science, the same science as others who are certified, they are better able to review the field and make a good decision about various theories or equipment choices.

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Combining Biofeedback with Virtual Reality to Manage Fear of Flying

One of the major challenges faced by behaviorally oriented psychologists has been to match reduction of autonomic arousal with stimuli realistic enough for the phobic patient to respond as if it were a truly “dangerous” situation. Historically, patients have been asked to rely on their imaginations to visualize the anxiety producing scenario (Wolpe, 1958), e.g., being in an airplane or crowded elevator. The critical factor has always been the extent to which the patient viscerally responds to the imagined threat, not the amount of visual imagery that is produced. The frequently reported patient complaint of, “I have a lousy imagination,” is not as damning as we once thought. Far more damaging is when physiological measures like heart rate (HR) or galvanic skin resistance (GSR) are unaffected by imagined phobic scenes. Either way, in vitro desensitization has been an awkward treatment to implement. Nonetheless, HR and GSR are considered excellent measures of how people viscerally respond to stressful situations. As everyone knows, rapid heartbeat and excessive sweating are sure signs of nervousness.

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Biofeedback in Sports

Biofeedback training has been widely recognized as an excellent way to promote a relaxed state for many sports applications. Many studies have been done on using biofeedback as a method of relaxation and to increase performance.

Athletes should ask themselves “Can I perform better in a relaxed state?” If it is the bottom of the ninth, with the bases loaded, the athlete needs to be able to clear their mind and focus on the performance. Anxiety and high stress can cause many athletes to “choke” in clutch situations. By learning to alter their mental and physiological state with a few simple relaxation techniques they tend to perform better. Biofeedback devices are great tools in achieving these results.

There have been several Olympic athletes, NHL hockey teams, professional football teams, golfers and more, that have credited biofeedback training as a factor in their success.

In a recent chat with Thought Technology Vice President Lawrence Klein, he could not resist the opportunity to discuss the many uses of his company’s biofeedback and neurofeedback equipment. Mr. Klein said, “We have a strong presence in professional and elite sports.” Thought Technology’s equipment has been used by a number of leading Olympic Sport Coaches and several professional sports teams.

Some teams have even set up mental training centers where trainers monitor the brainwaves and other physical functions such as surface EMG, temperature, GSR, heart rate, and respiration. This helps the players learn to reduce performance anxiety and improve their ability to focus under stress – giving them the “mental edge” they need to win.

There are devices like the Resperate, that promote meditative breathing patterns and very simple to use items such as the GSR2, that measures minute changes in skin conductance or resistance and conveys the stress level by an audio tone. These devices are easy to use and very effective. Organizations and teams have also used more sophisticated systems that measure multiple physiological measurements at once for a picture of the body’s stress level.

More recently there are products being introduced to help speed up reaction time. Reaction time can be crucial in many sporting events and in the Olympics millisecond can be the difference between gold and bronze.

Below are a couple of videos about biofeedback and athletic performance.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOuHWNQ1INA[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSXMGDpxYxE[/youtube]