Introduction

Humans have demonstrated fascination with the connections between mind and body from our earliest records to the present. As conscious and self-conscious creatures, we have always wondered how our emotions, thoughts, or ideas affect our bodily processes. Scientific progress on this topic had been slow, however, until the latter half of the twentieth century because we were unable to measure physiological processes easily and efficiently. At the same time, the psychological side of the equation was not well-conceptualized until modern psychology abandoned spiritualistic models for cognitive and evolutionary biological ones. In the 1950s, scientists working to delineate the mind-body connection created the term psychophysiology to distinguish themselves from physiological psychology or other early neuroscience subspecialties. As the technology and conceptual

Encyclopedia of the Human Brain Volume 1

Copyright 2002, Elsevier Science (USA).

All rights reserved.

development progressed, psychophysiology also prospered. Typically, early psychophysiological studies manipulated social-psychological variables while measuring physical parameters. For example, early leading researchers (the Lacys, Paul Obrist, or Peter Lang) began to interpret heart rate in light of various cognitive-emotional states. In this way, progress has slowly been made in psychophysiology. At the same time, some psychophysiologists and others asked a different question. If the subject could be made aware of their own physiology, could they actually change it? This "mind over body'' idea has always had adherents in religious traditions, eastern meditative traditions, and even medicine (physician as healer). At this point there was a scientific paradigm with the potential to elucidate this concept. Early successes in the laboratory led to an emerging clinical cohort who have tried to use biofeedback to correct problems, enhance performance, or modify experience. Biofeedback is the term coined to indicate the influence of information or feedback of various physiological parameters on the regulation of the same. For example, it was demonstrated that, if a person was given a meter of his or her heart rate and asked to slow or speed it, he or she could in fact accomplish this, at least statistically.

By the 1990s, growing public dissatisfaction with traditional western medical paradigms pushed health providers to offer complementary-alternative medicine services, and biofeedback is often included in this category. Greater sophistication in the neurosciences, together with less expensive instrumentation, has also led to a resurgence of interest in EEG biofeedback, often called neurofeedback. The revolutionary idea that a person could modify his or her own brain wave activity and thereby modify arousal, attention, or seizures has tweaked the imagination of the public.

From these various roots, the field of biofeedback or applied psychophysiology has grown to be a health profession with an international following, professional organizations, and a certification process.

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