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[Subterm of Mind-body medicine and related techniques]

Biofeedback is often used as an adjunct to relaxation. Biofeedback refers to the use of an apparatus to monitor, amplify and feed back to the patient. It is a form of psychophysiological self-regulation.


In the 1960’s, pioneers in the West working in the field of electroencephalography (EEG) research studied volunteers’ attempts to reproduce alpha waves knowing that this produces a state of deep relaxation and meditative clarity. It led to the basic concept that the process of becoming aware of physiological responses in the body offers the opportunity to learn how to manipulated them. Simple attention is required, not conscious effort which may hinder the process. Subsequently, physiologic measures other than EEG were used and the general term biofeedback was coined in 1969. Any physiologic response that can be monitored is suitable for biofeedback. The most common responses are electrical activity of the brain (EEG biofeedback), skin temperature (thermal), muscle tension (electromyography or EMG), galvanic skin resistance (GSR), blood pressure, respiratory rate and blood flow. Such information is presented to the patient as a continuous visual or auditory signal. The aim of the treatment is to establish the patient’s mastery over the response independent of the biofeedback apparatus.


With the patient seated or prone, monitors to detect physiologic changes are attached to the body. The response is converted into an audio or visual signal which is played back to the patient. The patient usually learns quite quickly to influence the signal in a desired direction. Biofeedback is commonly used as an adjunct to other therapies (particularly relaxation with cognitive therapy and stress management). Patients frequently return weekly to monitor their condition and to repeat the biofeedback practice. Initially, treatment sessions last one hour and  approximately 45 min thereafter. Courses may vary from four to 10 sessions. Frequently, home training with adjunctive techniques is encouraged. Eventually, most patients exert control of their physiological response without the aid of an apparatus.