Biofeedback is a purported technique for helping an individual become conscious of otherwise unconscious body processes. Through conveying information about blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature, galvanic skin response (sweating), and muscle tension in real-time, biofeedback aims to raise awareness and conscious control of the related physiological (natural biological processes) activities. In essence, biofeedback attempts to use the mind to control the body.
Neal Miller, a psychologist and neuroscientist who worked and studied at Yale University, is generally considered to be the father of modern-day biofeedback. In the 1950s, he came across the basic principles of biofeedback when doing animal experimentation conditioning the behavior of rats. His team found that by stimulating the pleasure centers of the rats' brains with electricity, it was possible to train rats to control phenomena ranging from their heart rates to their brainwaves. Until that point, it was believed that bodily processes like heart rate were under the control of the autonomic nervous system and not responsive to conscious effort.
Biofeedback has been shown to be helpful in treating a variety of medical conditions including asthma, Raynaud's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, hot flashes, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, incontinence, headaches, irregular heartbeats (cardiac arrhythmias), high blood pressure, and epilepsy. Other common uses may include the treatment of stress and stress-related conditions such as anxiety and insomnia.
Interest in biofeedback has fluctuated since its development in the 1960s. Today, it is becoming popular once more, possibly because of the general increase of interest in complementary and alternative medicine modalities.
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