Here’s something straight out of science fiction: the University of Iowa is offering a new service to help students overcome test anxiety, using a mind-reading technology that guides them into a state of relaxation. So-called “Biofeedback” displays students’ brainwaves in realtime and alerts them when they’ve dropped into a state of calm focus. “Once a student learns to reduce their anxiety using skills learned through biofeedback training, their performance increases significantly — often resulting in dramatic improvements in academic performance,” says U of Iowa Counselor and clinical psychologist, Jeffrey Ellen.
Biofeedback, or the modern cognitive application, Neurofeedback, was developed in the late 1960’s out of the University of California, Los Angeles and has been slowly creeping into the mainstream to treat everyone from Iraq vets with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to middle-schoolers with Attention Deficit Disorder.
Our brains exude readable output of electromagnetic radiation (waves); over the decades, cognitive scientists have matched patterns of thought to particular brainwaves. When jittery students are hooked up to the device, the computer recognizes the hyper-active state and can alert them via graphics and sounds as they consciously become more relaxed. The result is a kind-of guided meditation, with a computer guru that is physically aware of precise brain states. “I really want to focus on my senior year, and I’ve been really stressed out. Everything building up, and I just felt like I need to get some guidance. My professor brought me to realize that there is a program that’s out there that can help me,” said Iowa student and first time Biofeedback participant, Sarah Bishop.
Neurofeedback is not an accepted dogma in all medical circles. The relatively new science is still being evaluated by more advanced double-blind research and in a greater variety of cases. Despite the newness, Iowa has seen a three-fold increase in demand (429 students) in just a year and the fact that it’s being officially sanctioned by a university speaks highly of this space-age therapy.
[H/T Bulletproof Executive]