Biofeedback is a relatively new aspect of medical science that enables the user to become aware of the different processes of the body and the mind that go further than the customary five senses. In fact, the biofeedback training may also be described as the physiological control technique and involves the process to learn the different methods to make use of the data collected by a device known as a biofeedback machine. The gathered facts are utilized to regulate the purported involuntary actions of the body, including blood circulation, heart beat rate, blood pressure, digestion and sweating. In brief, biofeedback may be defined as a pointer with biology.
The biofeedback machine uses a number of dedicated electrodes that are connected to different body parts to examine as well as evaluate various physical conditions, including the temperature of the skin, amount of perspiration on the skin, the muscle character, and the action of the brain signals. In addition to these, the biofeedback machine also scrutinizes and computes several other physical states of affairs whenever necessary. Incidentally, the biofeedback machine offers either audible as well as visual retorts or responses. The data or information collected from the biofeedback machine’s electrodes is transmitted to the user by means of testers, light, tenor or additional ways.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the response offered by the biofeedback machine offers the user innovative and discernible understanding regarding the various progressions of the body and the mind that stretches further than the standard five senses – touch, see, hear, taste and smell. To be precise, the biofeedback procedure provides a person with specific new data regarding his or her physiological performance, which was earlier inaccessible and unknown to him or her.
It is interesting to note that the term ‘feedback’, denoting response to an inquiry or experiment, was first coined by flight engineers to explain a maneuvering method supplying information to a rocket regarding its course. Many others say that the term was fist coined in the early 1900s by those who invented the radio. Similarly, in the 1960s, researchers coined the term ‘biofeedback’ with a view to communicate the contemporary laboratory practices adopted by them to educate the untried investigative subjects. According to the famous mathematician and the founder of feedback research, Norbert Wiener, ‘biofeedback’ denotes a procedure for regulating a system through reinsertion of the consequences of its previous routine into it.
While biofeedback is a relatively new aspect of medical science, the theory that governs biofeedback cannot be said to be innovative. During the 18th century when India was under the British rule, the army doctors as well as the civic authorities confirmed that the Yogis (people who performed yoga – the ancient Indian form of meditation uniting the mind, body and spirit) were capable of regulating the supposed automatic actions of the body like the heart beat frequency, and pain. In fact, by lying on bed of nails for hours at a stretch the Yogis demonstrated their controlling power over pain. When enquired about their ability to control these involuntary physical functions, the Yogis asserted that this was possible owing to the rigorous practice of yoga that helped to unite the mental, physical and emotional aspects of an individual.
The 1950s witnessed a major development in medical science when three scientists named Brown, Kamiya and Green ascertained that utilizing the knowledge collected with the help of physiological computing devices may enable a person to regulate specific physical developments in his or her body. This was first detected by Kamiya while he was conducting a study on sleep and dream. During the research, Kamiya was surprised to note that his patients or subjects had picked up the method to utilize the data provided by an electroencephalograph (EEG) machine to alter their mental condition. In fact, Kamiya discovered that his subjects were proficient in attaining the alpha state of mind – said to be the most calmed down condition of the mind when a person is wide awake.
After some time Kamiya shifted his research base to the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco and built a trial product that is now regarded as the benchmark for all devices used to train people to attain the alpha state of mind. The method of using this machine is simple. It is attached to the patients with the help of electrodes and when the subjects attain the alpha state of mind, they can hear a particular sound. During the latter part of his research, Kamiya also noted that following extensive practices, his subjects could preserve the alpha condition even without the help of the machine.
Again during the 1960s, a scientist at the Rockefeller University in New York, Dr. Neal Miller succeeded in training laboratory mice to control their blood circulation after the rodents were numbed with the application of a medicine used to calm down muscles. Around the same time, two other scientists at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka in Kansas, Dr. Elmer Green and his colleague Mrs Alyce Green were carrying out trials to teach groups to keep their hands warm adopting the principles of biofeedback technique. It may be noted here that before these researches, the common belief was that the human brain was split into two parts for voluntary and involuntary performances. People were also of the opinion that actions like breathing, heart beat and blood circulation were involuntary actions, while talking, walking, reading or writing were considered to be voluntary activities.
In all probability, a large number of people could have used biofeedback unknowingly as it is an uncomplicated procedure. Especially, if a person had measured his or her body temperature or got on a scale to find their weight, they have certainly used biofeedback. If this seems incredible, look at the feedbacks these two actions have provided you with. While a thermometer let us know if we have a fever, a scale tells us whether we have gained or lost any weight. In fact, both these devices provide us feedback and this knowledge helps us to work towards improving our physical conditions. Similarly, systems built in our body also give us feedback in the form of symptoms and enable us to lead a protected and contented life. The signals sent out by these feedback systems in our body inform the different organs about the time to remain active and when to remain dormant. It is important to note here that such naturally occurring feedback systems in our body enables us to adjust with the shifting ecological situations.
Like yoga to some extent, biofeedback is also considered to have several roles in behavioral medicine (a medical discipline that concentrates on how people’s thoughts and behavior influence their health and diseases) as well as other medical functions that help to bring the body and mind together. For instance, psychotherapists apply biofeedback to make the paralyzed or numbed muscles of the stroke patients functional again. On the other hand, specialists in psychology exploit biofeedback to train people suffering from tension and anxiety to unwind. Then again, experts in various disciplines of medicine put biofeedback into operation to help their patients deal with pain.
It may be mentioned here that biofeedback has proved to be very effectual in identifying or diagnosing stress. Now it is a common knowledge that trauma and anxiety are detrimental for the body and often leads to supposed tension-related disorders such as high blood pressure, heart attack, migraine headaches and even ulcers. However, the fact remains that most people are not constantly conscious about being under trauma and in such circumstances biofeedback offers an effective technique to remain alert. It is possible that in the absence of biofeedback, the individual may have never been conscious about being effected by stress.
Contrary to the perception in some sections, the biofeedback machine cannot be described as a ‘marvel mechanism’ that enables one to attach himself with and then take delivery of a ‘miracle medication’ from it. On the contrary, biofeedback is a process through which an individual may become aware of the disorders in his or her body and be trained to tackle them effectively. What is significant about biofeedback is that instead of making us rely on external agents to cure our ailments, it helps us to take up the onus of our well being on ourselves. Here it is important to mention that the biofeedback practitioner or guide has a vital role to play in making this technique well-liked and successful. The trainer has to assist and lead his or her client to effectively deduce the data obtained from the biofeedback device. This will enable the client or patient to detect and comprehend the changes taking place in his or her body when they are under constant worry.
When an individual suffering from tension headache uses the biofeedback machine he or she is able to detect the muscles that contract and are to be blamed for the pain. The individual may then exercise the procedures that would enable him or her to get respite from the ordeal on the biofeedback machine. It is possible for the client to experience repose as well as learn the technique simultaneously to calm down the specific muscles that are responsible for the pain. Repeated practice coupled with the trainer’s support, the client becomes efficient in accomplishing the preferred relaxation condition.
Over the years, clinical biofeedback procedures have become quite popular and now they are extensively applied to cure an escalating assortment of ailments and disorders. The conditions that may be cured through biofeedback techniques are many and mainly comprise disorders of the stomach and intestine, abnormal heartbeat rhythms, high and low blood pressures, migraine headaches, tension headaches, various kind of pains, epilepsy, extreme cold, paralysis and a host of problems related to movements.