Feedback From Brain Waves

One of the first applications of biofeedback occurred in the 1960s when a great deal of interest in altered states of consciousness arose. A number of researchers in California used newly acquired knowledge from sleep research to study the encephalographic (EEG) aspects of meditative states. It was observed that calm, transcendent states were accompanied by a predominance of a rhythm (8-12 Hz or cycles per second) activity. Biofeedback of this activity was accomplished by providing a tone or other sound when the subject produced a certain amount of the a activity. With shaping, it appeared possible to, in fact, dramatically increase EEG in this band. Many subjects reported meditative types of experiences, and EEG biofeedback

Figure 2 A computerized trace showing (from top to bottom) skin temperature, skin conductance, heart rate, respiration, and spectral derivations of heat rate.

was launched as a number of commercial ventures began producing "Alpha Trainers,'' promising wondrous results without the time needed to master meditation. Though this trend turned out to be transitory, it did trigger an interest in the use of one's own brain wave information as a way of achieving desired changes. Since then, two applications have established themselves within the field of brain wave biofeedback, often called neurofeedback.

brain. As a matter of fact, Birbaumer has convincingly shown that patients who have lost all motor function, including respiration and eye blinks, can learn to communicate by producing a DC shift in brain activity (one patient actually wrote a book this way).

We do not know exactly what mechanisms are involved, but the demonstration of operant control of these rhythms is undeniable.

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