How Biofeedback Techniques
Affect States of Consciousness
By: Mark Bancroft, MA
Biofeedback allows a person to be aware of previously unconscious physiological activity. This awareness affords one the opportunity to learn how to control autonomic processes. Biofeedback may allow individuals to learn how to voluntarily lower their heart rate, relieve muscular tension which results in headaches, alter one's peak expiratory flow rate to reduce asthma suffering, and alter gastrointestinal functioning and electrodermal activity. In a general sense, consciousness has been affected. Biofeedback has caused an alteration in consciousness via information once outside of immediate conscious awareness. In turn, consciousness can now effect bodily functions that were outside its domain-one's level of awareness has been increased.
Less popular forms of biofeedback focus on having an individual learn how to consciously alter their brain-wave patterns. Through the use of biofeedback, a person can learn how to change their conscious state indirectly through the manipulation of brain-wave patterns [Wallace & Fisher, 1991]. Early misunderstandings about the "alpha state" caused many to believe that biofeedback could teach a person to enter this eurphoric state at will. Later studies conclude that for an "alpha experience" to occur, alpha brain-wave activity and an "alpha suggestion" are necessary for the experience [Wallace & Fisher,1991]. Research studies by Joe Kamiya demonstrate that subjects are able to increase, suppress, and alter alpha brain-wave activity through the use of biofeedback [Tart, 1990].
Beta-wave training conducted by D.E. Sheer suggests that biofeedback can assist with people's learning abilities by entering/maintaining a 40cps brain-wave state. Theta-wave training (4-7cps) through the use of biofeedback may help people with sleep disorders, elicit creativity, and assist with creative visualization [Murphy, 1992].
Murphy, M. (1992). The Future of the Body: Explorations Into the Further Evolution of Human Nature.New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Perigee Books.
Tart, C.T. (1990). Altered States of Consciousness. (3rded.). New York: Harper Collins.
Wallace, B. & Fisher, L.E. (1991). Consciousness and Behavior. (3rd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Mark Bancroft, MA, CHT
Nevada City, CA