New treatment: Biofeedback Therapy with Neurological Injured Women

Rosalie J. Ackerman, Ph.D.

Timken Mercy Medical Center

ABackans Diversified Computer Processing, Inc.

Martha E. Banks, Ph.D.

ABackans Diversified Computer Processing, Inc.
Research and Development Division
566 White Pond Drive
Suite C #178
Akron, OH 44320-1116


Past treatment recommendations have cautioned practitioners to avoid biofeedback or psychophysiological treatment for people who have neurological damage including brain injuries. However, with appropriate assessment of what is happening in a particular instance, a variety of physical disabilities can be successfully be treated. In many cases, a different type of intervention is needed for the patient who has neurological injury as compared to the psychologically traumatized patient. Behavioral interventions include behavioral medicine, health psychology, and behavioral management interventions. This type of biofeedback treatment represents new areas of interventions for brain and peripheral nerve injured patients. Stress management is also involved in the quality of health.

Many of these patients present with chronic illness. Often patients have seen other professionals but have not received adequate help. They seek improved health, increased control of their lives, and additional coping styles with self-efficacy. Case study data on multiple modalities of biofeedback for women are presented.

Diagnostic categories include:

  1. stroke sequelae
  2. Tourette's syndrome with neck, facial, and body tics
  3. post-operative breast cancer
  4. poor circulation in Raynaud's syndrome
  5. migraine headaches from motor vehicle accident sequelae
  6. bowel incontinence from multiple surgeries
  7. bowel retention from cerebral palsy
Outcome measures included:
  1. decreased frequency of the presenting symptoms
  2. increased social interactions in the post treatment phases of life with concomitant
  3. reduction in social isolation
  4. resumption of at least three activities that each patient had previously done before
  5. her physical disabilities become prominent
  6. decreased emotional distress from depression and/or anxiety
  7. muscle activation exercises in addition to learning relaxation
  8. distracting herself from tic episodes with a variety of stimuli including certain musical tones
Various neuropsychological interventions were used as well as visual imagery, hypnosis, and deep relaxation; and muscle relaxation and specific muscle activation was learned with biofeedback devices for more normalized bowel functioning. Evaluations including neuropsychological assessment, monitoring of blood pressure and respiration rates, blood volume in right and left arms and or fingers, galvanic skin response on nondominant hand, EMG measurements of bilateral muscle groups that provide symmetry to body functioning and temperature changes in fingers and or toes. Biofeedback monitoring was presented as data in graphic lines or bar charts as a real time reaction feature to guide their behavioral changes. Computer-based protocols were administered on multiple channels of Davicon instrumentation. Treatment usually continued on a weekly basis for 5-12 months dependent upon the severity of symptoms. Biofeedback therapy included various combinations of relaxation techniques, hypnosis, psychotherapy, and/or comprehensive rehabilitation. Risk and stress factors of smoking, dietary and drug habits, and familial diseases, such as alcoholism were addressed in the treatment course.

Feminist approaches to diagnosis and treatment have been limited in areas considered to be "hard science" such as biofeedback, physiology, health psychology, behavioral medicine, and neuropsychology. As a result, women's physical concerns, outside of a limited set of reproductive problems, are overlooked and misdiagnosed as "hysteria" and "psychosomatic" disorders. This presentation offers biofeedback interventions for behavior change, integrated with hypnosis, psychotherapy, and/or comprehensive rehabilitation programs.

Primary goals:

  1. raise the awareness of medical, allied health, and psychosocial personnel that brain injury is a common denominator for women who have chronic pain, substance abuse problems, and other physical disorders. The women are seeking professional help to stabilize their lives and to improving their quality of life. Referrals to appropriate health consultants are recommended.
  2. report clinical outcome data that illustrates biofeedback therapy as a successful behavioral management treatment. A broad variety of problems are examined.
  1. appropriately intervening with biofeedback therapy based on neuropsychological implications of brain injury
  2. serving poor, older, and middle aged women
  3. identifying and supporting psychosocial adjustment strategies and behaviors
  4. ensuring that biofeedback, physiology, health psychology, behavioral medicine, and neuropsychology are integrated into feminist psychology curriculum, training, practice, and research


This paper was presented at the May 1994 convention Psychosocial and Behavioral Factors in Women's Health: Creating an Agenda for the 21st Century in Washington, DC. 

Copyright 1996-2000ABackans Diversified Computer Processing, Inc. All rights reserved.

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