Biofeedback is the Best Stress-Buster for Students


DES MOINES – Iowa State University has opened a Biofeedback Center for students to help them deal with stress.

Directed by Student Counseling Service staff psychologist Todd Pietruszka, the center is free and open to all ISU students.

The university is first of the three Regents’ universities to offer a biofeedback service to address students’ emotional needs.

The center has adopted technologies like video games and guided meditations to teach relaxation techniques, concentration skills and healthy coping responses.

It also teaches people to become aware of their physiological responses, while providing techniques like deep breathing, visualization or mindfulness, to consciously reset the body’s conditioned responses.

Pietruszka said: “Biofeedback is a fancy name. It really means getting information about your physical responses and using that information to take action.

“For example, when you take your temperature and find you have a fever, you might call the doctor.”

The compact room of the center has three massage recliners, each facing its own wall-mounted computer monitor.

Students begin with an orientation session that explains how to check out and use the equipment, and how to navigate the computer programs.

During a biofeedback session, the room is quiet and darkened as the students sit in the recliners wearing noise-cancelling headphones and fingertip sensors, which measure skin conductance and heart rate.

Three choices of computer software offer a variety of self-guided, interactive programs.

As students practice the relaxation techniques presented, they can watch real-time graphs of their physiological responses.

This information helps them identify the activities that work best for them. Once mastered, they can use the techniques whenever needed-before taking a test or giving a class presentation, for example.

Sessions last from 15 minutes to an hour or more.

Pietruszka said: “The training module teaches how to become aware of your body, how to use breathing, how to become mindful of your thoughts.

“As you practice and use the tools and get feedback, you can see what works for you.

“Biofeedback is really a way to have a coach. It basically lets you know when relaxation techniques are working.”

Iowa State’s Information Technology Services’ Computation Advisory Committee’s fund of 4,654 dollars helped establish the center.

Alcoholism Affects Sleep During Sober Periods

SYDNEY – Long-term alcoholism affects sleep even after long periods of abstinence, impacting men and women similarly, says a new study.

The study indicates that in long-term alcoholics who had not had a drink for up to 719 days, the percentage of slow wave sleep or deep sleep was significantly lower.

Slow wave sleep and more light stage 1 sleep is reflective of poorer sleep quality, which could act as an exacerbating factor in alcoholics’ cognitive decline.

Although women had better sleep efficiency and fewer wake periods than men, no significant interactions between sex and alcoholism diagnosis were found for any measures.

This suggests that women show the same general pattern of alcoholism-related sleep changes as men.

Principal investigator Ian Colrain, psychologist at the University of Melbourne, was also surprised to find that a significant increase in the percentage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, usually associated with dreams, persisted in alcoholics who had abstained for an extended period.

The study involved 42 alcoholics who were recruited from an inpatient treatment program and 42 controls.

Estimated lifetime alcohol consumption was significantly higher in male alcoholics (1,607.2 kg) than female alcoholics (843.7 kg).

Many aspects of psychological functioning are affected by damage to the frontal cortex of the brain, including those that relate to judgment and risk taking, said Colrain.

The study appeared in Sleep.