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Biofeedback as brain training

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Biofeed­back hard­ware devices mea­sure and graph­i­cal­ly dis­play var­i­ous phys­i­o­log­i­cal vari­ables such as skin con­duc­tiv­i­ty and heart rate vari­abil­i­ty, so that users can learn to self-adjust. It has been used for decades in med­i­cine. Recent­ly, this tech­nol­o­gy has emerged in rea­son­ably-priced appli­ca­tions for con­sumers who want to learn how to man­age stress bet­ter.

Neu­ro­feed­back is a sub­set of biofeed­back rely­ing specif­i­cal­ly on elec­tro­phys­i­o­log­i­cal mea­sures of brain activ­i­ty. Using Elec­troen­cephalog­ra­phy (EEG) biofeed­back to mea­sure brain waves gives the user feed­back on dif­fer­ent “men­tal states” like alertness.  Neu­ro­feed­back is still a tool most­ly use­ful in research and high­ly spe­cial­ized clin­i­cal con­texts, not for main­stream health­care and/or con­sumer appli­ca­tions, so we do not cov­er it in this guide.

Dr. Steen­barg­er, whose inter­view can be found at the end of the present chap­ter, rec­om­mends the use of relax­ation cou­pled with biofeed­back pro­grams to improve trader’s per­for­mance. These pro­grams pro­vide real-time visu­al feed­back on a “trader’s inter­nal per­for­mance”. You may be won­der­ing how this may help a trad­er improve his or her per­for­mance? It is because of the close rela­tion­ship between emo­tion and cog­ni­tion. Emo­tion strong­ly affects cog­ni­tion. Stress, as we men­tioned ear­li­er, can be very detri­men­tal to per­for­mance. Thus, in jobs that are very emo­tion­al like trad­ing, it is very impor­tant to learn how to self-reg­u­late emo­tion­al­ly in order to improve one’s cog­ni­tive per­for­mance Accord­ing to Dr. Steen­barg­er, biofeed­back pro­grams can tell the traders whether they are in opti­mal con­di­tions to learn and per­form or whether they are becom­ing too stressed.

Keep learn­ing by read­ing more arti­cles in the Resources sec­tion, and also please con­sid­er join­ing our free month­ly Brain Fit­ness eNewslet­ter

This new online resource is based on the con­tent from the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (May 2009, $19.95), by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg.

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.