Biofeedback via Computer?

A number of years ago a friend of my older sister, let’s call her veronica, came to our family seeking help. I remember Veronica talked nonstop and disjointedly. Our family decided she needed medical attention so we took her to a hospital. Part of the admission process was taking Veronica’s temperature. It was the kind they stick under your tongue that has a digital readout that the nurse leaves there for a few minutes. Being a crazy teenager at the time I encouraged Veronica to get a higher number on the readout. It was 98 point something. Sure enough Veronica got the readout to go up another tenth of a degree. Inspired by this I challenged her to do it again. Sure enough, she did it again. Both her and I were delighted. (Amazing what a teenager finds amusing to pass the time isn’t it?) Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was witnessing biofeedback.

The word "biofeedback" was coined in the late 1969 to describe laboratory procedures (developed in the 1940's) that trained an individual to consciously control a body function that is normally regulated automatically by the body unconsciously. Examples of biofeedback would be skin temperature, brain wave activity, muscle tension, heart rate, or blood pressure. The three common types of devices used are:

1. Electromyography (EMG). This type of feedback uses a device that measures muscle tension. During monitoring, the person practices a relaxation technique such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualization.

2. Electroencephalograph (EEG) or Neurofeedback. This type of feedback device measures brainwave activity that can be observed on a computer monitor. It is connected to the individual with sensors that are placed on the scalp and ears. Computerized games are used to help the individual change his or her brainwave activity.

3. Peripheral temperature or hand temperature feedback. This type of feedback uses a device that measures the skin temperature of the hands. During monitoring the person tries to increase this temperature through the use of visualization or guided imagery. Increasing blood flow to the hands, for instance, makes the hands warmer.

What is biofeedback used for? It is used most often to control problems related to stress or blood flow. Some examples would be headaches, high blood pressure and sleep disorders. Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback website at aapb.org lists 34 disorders that are amenable to intervention by biofeedback and neurofeedback. It has been used to help control long-term (chronic) pain as well. Brother Mark here gets a newsletter on fibromylagia that produces muscle pains throughout the body. There is no cure. The newsletter talks about people who have totally gotten off pain medications for this disease using biofeedback techniques.

According to WebMD.com, learning biofeedback, unlike in Veronica’s case, usually takes several sessions. By the time 12 sessions are completed, most people experience success with their conditions. Eventually, people learn to influence their muscle tension or blood flow without the need of the monitoring equipment. People can go to a biofeedback lab for all of this. According to Dr. Dale Patterson, M.S., 10 sessions is going to cost you over $1,000. Biofeedback for ADD and ADHD costs between $60 to $150 per session and it can take between 30 to 100 sessions before significant improvements to symptoms. Fortunately, there is a cheaper alternative — home feedback units using your computer.

Are you reacting to daily stress in an unhealthy manner? BiofeedbackZone.com offers an inexpensive Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) monitoring device for home biofeedback for under $200. It comes with Calmlink software that has:

Full feature graphics display;

Multiple tone and musical instrument sound feedback;

Changing shapes and pictures tied to relaxation;

Full feature recording and viewing of past sessions;

The ability to export data to Excel;

Pacman style game that speeds up and slows down as you relax.

You can purchase just the software for under $120.

NeuroSky at neurosky.com, a Silicon Valley company, has developed a different use for biofeedback — a non-invasive neural sensor and signal processing technology that converts brainwaves and eye movements into useful electronic signals to communicate with a wide range of electronic devices, consoles, and computers.

NeuroSky is already working with headset manufacturers and game makers. One application is an automatic emoticon generator. While having a phone conversation, the analyzer will measure your brainwave frequency and send the information to software in the phone to generate a corresponding "smiley." Gamers may soon get more serious as biofeedback is used to reward or punish their choices. A more practical application is a sleep detector for truckers that detects when the driver is falling asleep and sounds a loud buzzer to wake him up. I can see other companies using this device to monitor their workers… . Who knows what’s next with technology — perhaps we will be the ones who are wired!

Since October ends the Year of the Eucharist I thought it would be good to find some Eucharistic related prayers online.

The Two Hearts Network has a Chaplet to the Mother of the Most Holy Eucharist and Novena in Her honor at 2heartsnetwork.org/OLEucharist.htm.

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis has a good selection of "Prayers in Honor of the Blessed Sacrament" page at theheartofjesus.org/prayers.html.

"The Chaplet of the Adorable Sacrament" found on my community’s website at monksofadoration.org/45.html can be prayed using regular rosary beads.

"The Eucharistic Prayer: Praise, Thanksgiving and Petition" put up by St. Malachi Church, Cleveland, Ohio gives food for thought at stmalachi.org/parish/special/euchpr01.htm.

Adoremus, a society for the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, has put up prayers for the Year of the Eucharist at adoremus.org/PrayersYearEucharist.html

The Work of God website has Eucharistic prayers by various saints, holy people, etc. at theworkofgod.org/Prayers/eucharistic_prayers.htm

Brother John Raymond has a Masters Degree in Theology and is cofounder of The Community of The Monks of Adoration in Venice, Florida. He can be contacted on his community’s website at monksofadoration.org

 Brother John Raymond welcomes
e-mail at john@aplusconsultingnow.com.

He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
Webmaster of www.monkofadoration.org