Biofeedback is the process of gaining greater awareness of many bodily functions, primarily using instruments that provide information on the activity of those systems, with a goal of being able to manipulate them at will. Some of the processes that can be controlled include brainwaves, muscle tone, skin conductance, heart rate and pain perception. Biofeedback may be used to improve health, performance, and the physiological changes that often occur in conjunction with changes to thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Eventually, these changes may be maintained without the use of extra equipment; no equipment is necessarily required to practice biofeedback.
At Holistic Child Psychiatry, LLC, the primary forms of biofeedback that are offered are Heart Rate Variability Training (specifically as taught through the HeartMath Institute) and EEG Neurofeedback. Biofeedback is a treatment modality that enables an individual to learn how to change how certain functions of their body for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise instruments measure activities such as brainwaves and variation in heart rate. These instruments rapidly and accurately “feed back” information to the user, and along with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior, supports the desired body function changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an instrument. This is in sharp contrast to treatment with psychiatric medications, where the benefits last only as long as the medication is being taken but often disappear once medication is discontinued.
This method involves placing a cap that has sensors attached to it on the head of the individual receiving the treatment, and a gel is applied to the sensors to allow the machine to pick up the brainwave pattern, which is then amplified and recorded on a computer using special software. The individual “sees” their brainwaves on a computer screen in the form of a video game, movie or soundtrack that changes according to what brainwaves are being produces. This teaches the person to change their brain function and continue to play to game, movie or sound. EEG biofeedback can be very effective for the treatment of addiction, autistic symptoms, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disability, anxiety disorders (including worry, obsessive compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder), Reactive Attachment Disorder, depression, migraine and other chronic pain conditions, insomnia, traumatic brain injury, and some neurological disorders including generalized seizures. The number of treatment sessions vary according to both the type of Neurofeedback used and the condition being treated, and can run anywhere from 10 – 40 or more sessions; the most advanced type of Neurofeedback, called qEEG with LORETA, seems to be more efficient and need fewer sessions for benefits. This type of Neurofeedback is being offered at Holistic Child Psychiatry, LLC.
Heart Rate Variability Training (also called HeartMath)
Heart rate variability (HRV) consists of beat-to-beat differences in intervals between successive heartbeats. According to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, the heart, gut and brain communicate intimately
via the vagus nerve, the critical nerve involved in the expression and management of emotions in humans. We experience emotions in our body, not in our heads. Emotions are first of all a physical state and only secondary interpreted as a perception in the brain. By learning, literally how to control our heart, we learn how to gain mastery of our emotional brain and vice versa. We can actually change the state of our brain by what we do with our bodies. HRV is very important for the entire regulation of the complete system. People with good HRV tend to be more optimistic, take initiative and are stress resistant. In contrast, people with low HRV tend to be depressed or anxious and have trouble learning. Improvements in mental & emotional well-being in over 5,500 people in just 6-9 weeks using HeartMath training and technology include:
50% drop in fatigue
46% drop in anxiety
60% drop in depression
24% improvement in the ability to focus
25% improvement in listening ability
30% improvement in sleep
HeartMath scientifically monitors your emotional and physical health – and helps you improve it.
In a research study regarding Dance a Performance, Neurofeedback and HRV biofeedback benefited performance in different ways. HRV training was better for overall performance and neurofeedback was better for timing. This article by the HeartMath Institute explains how Heart Rate Variability Training can be helpful for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.