Tech News Arizona
Published June 23, 2009
By Mae Lee Sun
TNAZ Regional Correspondent
TNAZ Regional Correspondent
The quest for optimum health and wholeness is an ages old endeavor. Throughout the centuries, seekers have journeyed far and wide to enlist the aide of shamans, spiritual gurus and herbalists who would prescribe everything from eye of newt to consulting the stars. As medicine and science took root, and gained power, that changed. Formalization and professionalization required different mediums and tools in which to address bodily issues and illnesses and treatment often came in the form of pills and surgeries.
The more things change however, the more they stay the same. We’ve come full circle in our knowledge of what total health represents and how to best address it. It’s simple, sort of. And involves something as old as life itself- heart rate and breath-although now measured through the use of hi-tech monitoring devices-otherwise known as “biofeedback.”
Ann Linda Baldwin, University of Arizona Professor of Physiology and Psychology and director of Mind-Body-Science, however, has taken biofeedback to another level. Through the application of sophisticated video game software, she along with Dr. Gulthan Sethi, a heart transplant surgeon at University Medical Center in Tucson is hard at work treating Parkinson’s disease and heart transplant patients.
“Treatment for Parkinson’s disease is not ‘one size fits all.’ Some patients respond better to short periods of relaxation aided by Biofeedback, and some respond better to short periods of concentration, or focusing, aided by Biofeedback techniques. However, in all cases the patients significantly improved their performance of memory and fine motor control tasks,” says Baldwin, who tapes a stretch sensor around the patient’s chest to monitor respiration frequency and depth, and a heart rate variability sensor onto their middle finger.
They practice the two tasks – memory and fine motor control – until they reach a constant score and show no further improvement. They then place the three finger sensors for the Wild Divine, a fantasy-based biofeedback game, on their other hand and are instructed to play for 10 minutes. Such a game could be breathing in time with a tree that grows and shrinks. A bridge forms across a chasm if they can regulate their breathing and HRV to stay within the desired range. They repeat the memory game to see if performance improves and if they are less stressed than they were the first time. The whole process is repeated using a fine motor control task instead of the memory task. The experiment is repeated but they are instructed to play one of the Wild Divine games that requires focusing and concentration instead of relaxation.