Zapping migraine pain

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

According to Dr. Joshua Wootton, a psychologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (a Harvard teaching hospital), a 22-year-old psychology student named Jennifer tried a variety of medications and trigger-point nerve block injections to treat the migraines she had suffered since she was 10, though none of these approaches really worked. Then she found out about biofeedback and meditation.

Read her inspiring story, in which she finds biofeedback training and meditation "completely zap the pain."

Wootten explains his process of using biofeedback to treat migraine pain:

“People can actually see on a computer screen what is happening in real time,” he says. “By increasing their awareness of how their bodies respond, patients can more easily devise strategies for improved response. For headache pain, we focus on musculoskeletal tension and autonomic nervous system dysfunction. Patients can see that by just being in pain they are raising their adrenaline levels and putting further strain on the system, exacerbating their pain and making it less treatable. I teach them an easy form [of relaxation] and ask them to practice it twice a day for 15 minutes each time.”

Jennifer's story is not unique: Behind Somatic Vision games and software tools, such as Alive, is Yuval Oded, a clinical psychophysiologist with long experience in the field treating many like Jennifer. Like Dr. Wootten, Oded combines biofeedback with cognitive behavioral therapy in his practice. Somatic Vision has crafted its Alive Workshops around his work and its results, and has included many of Oded's proven off-screen techniques in the Alive User Guide and in the Alive & Beyond 8-Week Program.

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Neurofeedback addresses problems of brain disregulation

neurofeedback gamesThe Somatic Vision games you know about are used by home users interested in using heart rate and skin sweat feedback for stress reduction and peak performance.

Did you know that modified versions of these same games are used clinically to treat brain-related conditions using brainwave biofeedback, called neurofeedback?

Somatic Vision games form the backbone of the Cygnet neurofeedback system by EEG Info, which is used worldwide by psychologists and doctors in one-on-one sessions addressing brain-related disorders.

I would encourage Somatic Vision customers to learn more about neurofeedback, and its potential uses when dealing with more challenging issues than can be easily addressed at home.

If you want to learn more about neurofeeback, I recommend any of the following:
A Neurotopia video showing how neurofeedback works and benefits people
Neurofeedback videos on ouTube

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With or without biofeedback, video games can reduce stress

health games

According to a story in the Washington Post, video games are being proven to offer significant mental health benefits.

After being contacted by a customer who found the popular game "Bejeweled helped her better manage her depression, the makers of Bejeweled hired some researchers to study the possible mental health benefits of the game. The findings show why video games are gaining credibility as a medical intervention for those suffering from stress, depression, and anxiety:

Some games seem to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which can reduce the heightened tension that's a natural response to stress.

The researcher hypothesized that one reason for the apparent mental health benefits of video games is that many people in Western countries find it impossible to switch off; they're always alert and stressed out. When those Type A people try to relax, they get bored because they've come to require a certain level of stressful arousal.

Playing certain video games offers just enough mental challenge to keep such people occupied while putting them into a state of relative mindlessness. That state appears to have salutary effects on stress and other mental problems.

The story also shines a light on the power of biofeedback in gaming, the core concept behind all Somatic Vision games:

Researchers said that one of the breakthrough ideas in combating stress and other mental disturbances was manipulating a factor known as heart rate variability. Different emotions seem to produce heart rhythm "signatures," and several devices have been invented to measure that variability.

Companies such as HeartMath, of Boulder Creek, Calif., have developed video games in which winning requires players to regulate their heart rate variability, thus gaining greater control over their emotional responses to stressful situations.

HeartMath's "emWave" system, for example, has a sensor that can pick up a person's heart rate variability and feed those measurements into a computer. The screen then displays a game that gives people feedback about their heart rhythms and challenges them to play in such a way as to smooth them out.

The biofeedback allows people to see how they can control their stress levels through conscious effort.

The company put a Post reporter in touch with Rollin McCraty, a psychophysiologist who directs research at the Institute of HeartMath. He said dozens of studies demonstrate that the intervals between a person's heartbeats are linked with various emotional states.

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Biofeedback is the new best stress-buster for students

Student Stress

Iowa State University has opened a Biofeedback Center for students to help them deal with stress.

Directed by Student Counseling Service staff psychologist Todd Pietruszka, the center is free and open to all ISU students.

The university is first of the three Regents’ universities to offer a biofeedback service to address students’ emotional needs.

The center has adopted technologies like video games and guided meditations to teach relaxation techniques, concentration skills and healthy coping responses. Some important take-aways about biofeedback from the discussion surrounding this new student center:

• Biofeedback is really a way to have a coach. It basically lets you know when relaxation techniques are working.

• A good comparison: When you take your temperature and find you have a fever, you might call the doctor.

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