16 July 2014

Zukor's Grind Review - The BFE Weighs In

The BFE's Research Manager Jon Bale reviews Zukor's Grind - A next-generation feedback game for neurofeedback and biofeedback.

"We're having trouble engaging our younger patients. Do you have anything that's good to use with kids?"
"I'm looking for something that's more video-gamey..."
"Do you have any feedback better than just these animations?"

These are some of comments I receive in emails and hear from time to time in the BFE online sessions. Clinical applicability and concise data collection are definite cornerstones in biofeedback and neurofeedback, but health professionals also care about subject engagement. They want their feedback tools to impress their clients with cool graphics and imagery, illicit of video games we see on the market today. Watching animations or DVDs is not always enough, so clinicians are always keeping their eyes open for that next application that can capture the attention in their practice.

This is where Zukor's Grind comes to impress. 

Zukor's Grind is both a biofeedback/neurofeedback training tool and video game. The normal type of training that we are all accustomed to is with bar graphs, thresholds,  feedback animations and/or DVDs. Zukor's Grind enhances training by replacing the simple feedback animations and DVDs with a feedback skateboarding game. Changes in the subject's physiology or brainwaves dictate the pace and progress of the game, the number of points scored, what skateboarding tricks are achieved, and which special effects are activated. 

If, for example,  you are training the subject's heart rate variability using spectral frequencies, as the Low Frequency (0.08 - 0.12 Hz) percent of total power increases, the skateboarding character performs a variety of skateboarding tricks and gains points to reward the subject. If self-regulation is maintained successfully for longer periods of time, periodic special events take place to reward the player as the skateboarding character progresses through the choice of levels.

There's no doubt in my mind that children and teenagers (and even some adults) will respond to Zukor's Grind. It is similar in terms of visual design and detail levels to what one can find on the market for true video games. Those younger subjects that are marked with difficulties paying attention and responding to a computer screen, who often remark "this is boring", will become a little less difficult for you.  The many settings that control the feedback in the game can also be easily toggled on and off, meaning each cool effect, sound or background feature can be adjusted. Progressively adding or changing game elements every few sessions could continually spur the subject's motivation with the therapy.

A question that arose: would I really want to use the a video game-like tool with an ADHD boy, where I am down-training Theta (4-8Hz) and up-training Beta (15-21Hz)? Would I be improving attentional issues, or simply presenting something that the subject would naturally already respond to? Would this training extend to mundane moments when attention is important, like listening to a boring teacher? 

My above, initial concerns with Zukor's Grind regarding novelty and over-stimulation were alleviated by regulating the game's use and adjusting game settings. The game can be used as a reward from "standard" training, such as the last 5-10 minutes of a successful training session. Even if the subject's ability to pay attention is based somewhat on the novelty of the game and the its flashiness, they are still be training during these "reward periods".  The game's detailed setting can also be turned down, in order to avoid artificial attention unrelated to the subject's "working to focus".

To see for yourself, play my review video below to get a better idea of what the game looks like, the settings you can play with and how the game is set up from the perspective of both the clinician and client.

At the BFE, I maintain an air of skepticism when manufacturers and developers come to show us their amazing, must-have product. Most of the time, what they have to present does not interest me. Personally, I lose immediate interest with any hint of marketing buzzwords and over-descriptive use of adjectives. My initial reaction to the Zukor's Grind pitch was similar, but upon using the game in a training session my opinion quickly changed. I'm stoked for skateboarding with my brain!

Zukor's Grind is now available in the BFE Online Shop. Click here for more information.

13 June 2014

Biofeedback and Neurofeedback in Sport

When you look at sporting achievements over the last decades, it seems like humans have gotten faster, better and stronger in nearly every way. What looked like a miraculous performance 15 years ago is now perceived as an average achievement reached by many school athletes. Nowadays, athletes are constantly seeking ways to enhance their physical abilities. They work on their conditioning, mechanics and employ experts from different areas to develop the best game strategies. But in recent years, much more attention had been placed on the mental side of competition.

What is happening inside the mind & body during the performance?
To obtain an inside view of our brain and body as we think, feel and perform, what the body/mind is doing at rest, during competitive task, sport professionals now have the opportunity to use the most cutting edge psychological or psycho-physiological techniques behind peak performance, a method which helps to connect the dots between mind-body interactions, called biofeedback.

Biofeedback training teaches athletes how to control and alter their physiological functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, muscle tension, breathing or brain activity in relation to healthy behaviour. Such self-regulation skills can help them move towards more optimal level of functioning.

An athlete’s emotions and thoughts lead to changes in physiology that are both measurable and controllable.
The athletes can develop greater self-awareness of how they hold tension and anxiety in the body and self-regulation techniques to decrease that tension. They became more aware of their mental state, and through regulation and control of their level of anxiety and tension in the body, they enhance their ability to focus and perform at their optimal level.

If your competitor is handling his stress better, then he is ahead of you.
The role of sport psychology and sport science is increasingly recognized as an important component of the sports team. A multidisciplinary sports science approach that caters to a variety of athletes' needs plays an increasing role in guiding athletes toward injury prevention, sport-specific training and performance enhancement. And, this is the reason why sport science experts are expressing more interested in the intersection of sport psychology, human psycho-physiology and neuroscience.

We recently spoke to Zuzana Kovacova-Radacovska, owner of Herts EEG-Biofeedback, a leading Hertfordshire biofeedback practice who is seeing an increased demand for peak performance training. "Working as a biofeedback trainer, psychologist and performance coach with clients from high pressure environment, I was recently approached by a sport science lecturer of City of Westminster College in London, Miss Deandra Smith to introduce the concept of biofeedback in sport to the students of Sport Development and Fitness course as a part of their sport psychology program", said Zuzana. "The main purpose of the presentation was to introduce biofeedback as an efficient and powerful method of performance enhancement which combines the best knowledge and expertise of sport psychology, physiology, neuroscience and advancements in technology."

The lecture contained a basic theory of the method, history of biofeedback in sport and introduction to the different modalities of biofeedback such as temperature, heart rate variability, galvanic skin response, respiration and neurofeedback. Students were first taught how to use biofeedback without any equipment - just by observing the activity of their own bodies to decrease the level of anxiety by regulating the breathing.

Adding a physiology component to the training program allows both the athlete and trainer to see their progress.
After becoming more familiar with the role of biofeedback in sport psychology they got an opportunity to step into the shoes of sport psychologists and prepare the assessments and treatment protocols for two different case studies. However, the most entertaining part occurred when Zuzana presented a real time application of biofeedback by attaching different types of electrodes on volunteers. "Students could experience how to manage and decrease anxiety caused by peer pressure and sustain focus while performing under difficult conditions." said Zuzana.

"In sport there are fine lines between victory and defeat and it is often the marginal gains in something that not all other athletes or teams practice that can make the difference." - Zuzana Kovacova-Radacovska

An increasing number of elite and professional athletes and teams are adding a peak performance physiology training element to their overall training regime. The BFE has had the pleasure of working with a number of professionals in the field and sharing their knowledge in the form of specialized software, online education and regional workshops that guide professionals interested in learning more about this exciting field.

“The future appears promising as I’m currently in the process of agreeing to deliver similar presentation to the sport science students of a local private college. I hope more colleges and universities will express an interest to give their students a unique opportunity to become familiar with the method of biofeedback which can significantly help to improve athletic performance”, says Zuzana.

http://bfe.org/meeting/17th/BFE Sports Flyer Rome Meeting Info - 11 Jun 2014.pdf

For more information on peak performance training
available through the BFE download our brochure
or visit the BFE Online Shop.

25 May 2014

Learn From the Best: Drs. Lynda and Michael Thompson

The BFE ventured into the world of specialized biofeedback and neurofeedback software packages almost 10 years ago. We moved slowly and cautiously, to create custom-built  sessions in order to share methods of experts in the field of bio and neurofeedback. The BFE will forever be grateful to Dr. Michael and Lynda Thompson, for their collaboration.  As well-known names in our field, their willingness to share the collective insight of their ADD Centre in Toronto, Canada, gave the BFE its first opportunity to build a software suite that gives a helping-hand to any therapist looking to advance client care with bio/neurofeedback.  From their knowledge was born the "Setting Up For Clinical Success" suite and "Specialized Application Scripts" suite, now often referred to as simply the "Thompsons' Suites".

Training display for calming the brain, while monitoring the individual's physiology - 
suitable for performance enhancement with athletes and over thinkers.

Many clinicians swear by the Thompsons' Suites as being the best and most in-depth collection of screens and scripts available, for such a wide spectrum of client disorders and needs.  The Thompsons' design and methods extend to ADD/ADHD, Aspergers,  autism, anxiety , depression , optimal performance training, seizures, stress and more.  Each display arranges different relevant physiology and EEG bandwidth statistics, such that every individual possible requirement for clinical treatment is covered within the whole suite. The "Setting Up For Clinical Success" suite provides all the display screens for independent training, while the "Specialized Application Scripts" suite provides pre-defined 20-to-30 minute long  protocols for training ADD/ADHD, seizures, Aspergers, dyslexia, depression and optimal performance. 

Training display for focusing the mind and minimizing distractibility, typically used with 
ADD/ADHD children - point counters included for gauging success and challenging the subject.

The guidance and patience the Thompsons provided the BFE can also be found at the workshops they host. Whether you're a novice clinician that wants to improve your basic knowledge of the clinical EEG biofeedback field, or an experienced practitioner that desires to broach advanced material, their Neurofeedback Fundamentals workshop is the opportunity to learn from these world leaders of the field. We strongly encourage any professional that is interested in neurofeedback to consider the Thompsons' workshop. Past workshops have welcomed participants from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, United States, and Canada.
Neurofeedback Fundamentals Workshops    
Date:  June 2-6, 2014 and Sept 29 - Oct 3, 2014
Location:  Stoney Lake, ON  Canada
Contact:  ADDCentre@gmail.com or www.addcentre.com

For more information on the next Neurofeedback Fundamentals Workshop hosted by Michael and Lynda Thompson, just outside of Toronto, Canada, contact the ADD Centre directly at: ADDCentre@gmail.com.

Interested in learning more about the Thompsons' Suites? Click on the titles below for a full description:

Recently, Dr. Lynda Thompson spoke about neurofeedback on The Agenda with Steve Paikin.  Click on the image below to view the interview.


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