How CALM Research Centre Uses Biofeedback


Feedback is information telling you how you have responded to a situation.

It can come in the form of another person’s comment, criticism or appraisal of your work or an exam mark. Feedback is essential to improved performance. The better the feedback on your performance the more able you are to improve your ability. When it comes to relaxing consciously, improving focused concentration or improving meditation techniques, you are dealing with the activity of your mind. To receive feedback here, it is helpful to use specialised biofeedback equipment such as the electroencephalograph (EEG).

What Is Biofeedback?

The human body has built in sensors which provide feedback to both the conscious mind (in the form of feelings) and the subconscious mind (in the form of nerve impulses). Although we are usually not consciously aware of it, the body is constantly regulating breathing, heart beat, blood sugar levels and other functions by listening to its own internal messages. Any change will be registered by the nervous system and a host of complex biological and neurological processes are activated. Although many of these processes are automatic responses to our changing environment they are also made in response to conscious decisions such as to physically move the body or go to sleep. In fact in responding to any external stress or change there is a dynamic relationship between both the conscious mind and subconscious mind in their combined response to the external stress.

Let’s consider an example. Say you decide to go for a long walk. While walking, the air temperature begins to decrease. Sensory organs in your skin detect the change in temperature and begin to transmit this information, which is received by the subconscious mind as nerve impulses, and by the conscious mind as the "feeling" of coldness.

The subconscious mind will react automatically out of its current habit in responding to that situation, which may be to reduce blood flow to the skin (preserving the core body temperature) and create "goose bumps" across the skin surface Your conscious decision may be to put a warmer jersey on. If the skin sensors detect that the skin surface is still too cold then the subconscious mind may continue to respond through involuntary muscle movement such as shivering and your further conscious decision may be to start walking faster.

From this example we can see that body has its own feedback mechanism which allow responses to be made on both the conscious and subconscious levels. Our subconscious responses are expressed out of preexisting habits and our conscious decisions are based on emotional responses (or feelings) created by the situation.

Biofeedback is therefore the basic method by which we learn to adjust and respond to our environment, and thus improve our ability to consciously control and modify our subconscious reactions.

Learning How To Control Brain Wave States Through Biofeedback Equipment

To improve your ability to concentrate, meditate, heal yourself or increase creativity, you need to easily lower your brain waves to either the Alpha or Theta state. To achieve this you must first practise your technique, receive feedback and then practise again until you learn to recognise the required state and begin to receive real benefit.

Diagrams 1 and 2 are actual examples of a person’s brain wave states as they appear on the screen display from the EEG. The height of the "peaks" indicates the "intensity" of brain activity. This is measured on the Y-axis in millivolts. The area in which the brain activity is occurring is indicated on the X-axis. It is measured in Hertz and divided into the different brain wave states of Beta, Alpha and Theta. The brain wave activity is also measured over a period of time so that changes can be seen and compared on the Z-axis in approximately one-second intervals.

In Diagram 1 the person is watching TV. Bio feedback

  • The intensity of neural activity is consistent over the Theta and Alpha states and slightly greater in the Beta state, as expected.
  • The mind is still focused on several things at once.

In Diagram 2 the person is relaxing. Bio feedback

  • The Beta activity is minimal and intense neural activity is ‘focused’ in the Alpha and Theta states.
  • The mind is concentrated on one thing.
  • This is a state of relaxation and releasing stress.

Using Biofeedback greatly assists in the development of the conscious ability to reach the Alpha and Theta brain wave states. When we can reach these states at will, it leads to the improvement and eventual mastery of the techniques and skills taught in the CALM Life Skills Seminar.

We use the Biofeedback equipment to prove to seminar participants that they can succeed in using the techniques.


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