Electrothermographic Biofeedback



In electrothermographic biofeedback interventions is used the electrothermograph or simply thermograph or as is widely known THERMAL, a special electronic thermometer.

The biofeedback thermograph or thermograph, is a special electronic thermometer operating with 3 volt batteries, differing mainly in two points from common electronic thermometers: firstly the former gives readings both when tempeature rises or drops. Meaning it does not measure only the maximum observed temperature during an observation period, but constantly monitors temperature fluctuations. Secondly, there is a sensitivity difference. The biofeedback thermographer usually has three scales. The first scale measures absolute temperature and temperature changes in degrees. The second scale and third scale convey temperature changes ranging from 1/10 or 1/100 of a degree respectively. At this point it is worth mentioning that an individual untrained in biofeedback can hardly sense moderate temperature changes of few degrees, and surely is unaware of temperature fluctuations in terms of tenths or hundeds of degree.
To detect temperature this instrument usually relies on a thermistor, a special sensor consisting in a thermo-sensitive resistance which varies easily its value according to temperature changes. The electric resistance is in succession interpreted in terms of electric current which is amplified and displayed on a computer screen as a graphic depiction.
The sensor is placed on your fingers or toes, face or other body areas, depending on your needs. Nowadays, in biofeedback workshops are used thermographs connected to computers. Through the computer the trainer selects the most suitable way to portray temperature fluctuations, so as to provide you with feedback for maximum results in minimum time.

Temperature fluctuations in the body periphery are contingent upon the level of sympathetic arousal as well as upon somatic thermoregulatory functions. This means that they depend on whether stressors have acted on the organism and stimulated the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.

Body temperature measurement constitutes indirect measurement of blood flow to the monitored body parts, granted that temperature ranges correspond to respective changes in the blood flow to tissues. More direct and specific measurement of blood flow changes is obtained by means of photosensitive methods, such as the respective photosensitive instrument used in biofeedback.
Several factors exert influence upon blood flow volume. At arterial level the blood flow is conditioned by arterial walls. The contraction of smooth muscle fibers coating artery walls, ignited by the arousal of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, in other words by stress, brings about vasoconstriction. As a consequence blood flow is reduced, thus causing considerable lowering in skin temperature.
Vasodilatation is observed when there is decreased sympathetic activity upon the smooth muscle fibers of the arterial walls, namely in relaxation state, which results to relevant increase of blood flow in skin temperature.

Thermoregulatory functions are very significant for the maintenance of homeostasis in man.

When central temperature drops, the organism in order to preserve homeostasis, causes vasoconstriction at the periphery, extremities and skin vessels, so as to avoid or limit further heat losses.
If you intervene artificially and induce changes in this procedure you put at great risk your homeostasis, even your own survival.

Alcohol consumption, when central body temperature is low, would bring about periphery vasodilatation, antagonizing your endogenous homeostatic balance, this, under conditions of prolonged exposure to cold, could cause hypothermia and death.

In other words, it is a perilous great mistake to drink alcoholic beverages to warm up while we are still exposed to cold. Alcohol will be useful after we have found a shelter.
Homeostatic balance mechanisms affect the entire organism. The optimal temperature of an organism depends upon both internal and external factors. Increase of sympathetic nervous system activity is, usually, connected with the fight or flight response, when we encounter stressful situations. When fight or flight response is brought into play vascular reactions take place leading the blood away from the periphery and the gastrointestinal tack, towards the muscles and head (Cannon, 1963). Practically, the results of this mobilization are perceived as cold hands or feet. This response can be triggered by either external stimuli, for instance anticipated accident when driving, or internal instigation, such as the feeling of fear or anger for your boss.
On the other hand, anything that can bring about relaxation, presents the exactly opposite outcome, vasodilatation and temperature raise, and implies increased activity of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.
The above described response toward stressors constitutes the primary and primordial response of the organism toward any type of stimuli. There is nothing unnatural in this response, in this reaction. However, once the stressor disappears the system must return to the normal arousal and operation levels. If this fails to happen, then a pathological state emerges. Chronic response to stress, which tantamounts to anxiety, is accountable for 80% of diseases regarded from Physiology aspect as psychophysiological, that is, as psychosomatic.

Chronic stress response, initially displayed in the form of muscular tension, vasoconstriction or extreme vasodilatation (blushing) leads also to psychosomatic health problems and vice versa, it can be ignited by such problems.

Your vascular system supports the entire life circle of your cells, supplying them with blood which carries oxygen and nutritive substances, and parallely carrying away the useless byproducts of cellular metabolism. It is obvious that any part of the body can be influenced, since changes in one system bring about changes to all the rest.
This reaction is in agreement with Charles Stroebel assertion that many diseases have vasoconstriction origin.

According to Elmer & Alice Green of Menninger Foundation, the vasoconstriction of some brain vessels raises the feeling that you “are sick” while the subsequent excessive vasodilatation with the ensuing blood congestion, is what you experience as migraine.

The pain felt during migraine is accountable to local vasodilatation occurring through biochemical processes. This painful vasodilatation emerges to counterbalance the preceding extreme vasoconstriction caused by the sympathetic nervous system arousal.
When you are in a state of stress, your sympathetic nervous system is stimulated and this brings about vasoconstriction. When vessel walls constrict their diameter decreases which results to cuts in blood supplies for some organs at the periphery. In succession, the organism trying to restore blood circulation starts vasodilatation by bringing into play the parasympathetic nervous system. The “seesaw” balancing the activity of the two branches of the autonomic system, sympathetic and parasympathetic, is in full action. When the “seesaw” does not redress balance immediately but leans toward the parasympathetic side-activity then hyperemia is induced which in head terms is translated as migraine.
Raynaud’s phenomenon and disease are also correlated to reduced blood flow at the extremities.

Inexplicable heart strokes observed in young individuals, without any indication of arteriosclerosis or cardiac disease is frequently the result of localized vasomotor spasm, on account of stress, which deprives the oxygen from the heart.

This means that when blood vessels constrict intensely and rapidly, can cause cardiac arrest, which can occur also when a person falls suddenly into cold water with full stomach. Likewise, angina pectoris as a cardiac problem attributable to vessel blockage is too often imputable to vasoconstriction. Dysmenorrheal pains can also be accounted to drop of blood flow, while allergies often cause vasodilatation or bronchial spasm.

The training for temperature regulation at body periphery basically relies upon a technique increasing peripheral blood flow.

Temperature, and at extension blood circulation, like the rest physiological variables is subject to the law of “initial values and biological limits”. As this law states: Autonomic Nervous System response toward a stimulus depends directly upon its prior to stimulus level, meaning its initial value. The higher the functional level preceding the action of the stimulus, or else the higher the initial value of a function, the smaller the response toward the stimulus which tends to increase this function. To make it simple, the more stretched an elastic rubber band the less it can be further stretched, since it is closer to its limits.The more constricted the vessels the less these can further constrict when exposed to a new stimulus. When vessels retain extreme tension levels when exposed to the next stimulus, there is strong tendency for minimal or zero response to the new stimulus or even for paradox, abnormal responses or reactions.
Training in body temperature control was initiated by Elmer Green and his collaborators in Menninger Foundation. Subsequent to their original findings, the experimental and clinical applications of biofeedback studying temperature control advanced with amazing rapidness.
The striking interaction between knowledge and experience is illustrated in the study of Peper & Grossman who provided very encouraging results from the application of autogenic temperature self-regulation in children suffering from migraines. Their work proves that cooperative children learn much faster than not-activated adults. What spreads enthusiasm is that in this study with children the disease pattern appears completely altered. Studying other therapeutic approaches involves a considerable difficulty degree in distinguishing between alleviation or relief and real cure, since treatment is usually symptomatic, oriented to fight down the symptom. According to the research conclusions, after the completion of a four year survey, the children had very few headaches and when appearing could control them. Mastering autogenic training via biofeedback enabled children to modify the functions leading to the disease and to learn alternative ways in reducing their stress related responses. In their training was employed the electrothermograph.
Up to date temperature control techniques relying on electrothermographic biofeedback have been applied in several fields. French, Leed, Fohrion, Lau & Jecht trained male university students to raise scrotum temperature as contraception means. These individuals demonstrated considerable decrease in sperm amount of remarkable duration, meaning as long as they practiced the technique. Sedlasec and Hecrey trained women to raise vaginal temperature to eliminate dysmenorrheal ailments, while Bradley taught women to raise vaginal temperature as basis for painless childbirth.

Thermographic training usually starts with the hands, placing the sensors on fingertips or palm.

It is advisable to place the sensor at a different area in each session, because the ability of the body to learn is so enormous that the trainee can easily learn to control the temperature of one finger, while the next remains cold. At the beginning one notices that training one hand with the thermograph usually has an affect upon the other hand too.
As your dexterity increases in achieving temperature regulation you finally reach a stage where you can control hand temperature at adjacent points, closer than two centimeters, then you realize that you accomplish this in both directions, toward hot or cold. In order to reach general relaxation the sensor must be placed on various areas, even at feet, or elsewhere according to the trainee’s needs.
We often repeat in our training workshops a process that was followed in the past by one of the psychophysiologist therapists in Menninger Foundation Biofeedback Psychology Center. We exhibit the body-mental link between mother and child, both trainees in thermal groups. In one case the mother complained about the poor school performance of her child.
We brought the thermosensor in contact with a finger of the right hand in both trainees, the trainer told the child: “now, add 237+132, come on, answer me, speed up”. He used intentionally demanding and pressing tone to stress the child. The child confused from the pressure, replied stuttering “ah… 365”. He gave the wrong answer and its temperature dropped one degree. The temperature dropped because the child under the pressure of the stressor responded with sympathetic arousal which caused vasoconstriction in his hands. The mother was surprised and her temperature also dropped three degrees. As was displayed the mother was stressed, indeed intensely, with her child’s mistake. Then she remarked: “it just dawned to me the impact my child’s difficulties in reading bear upon me, they upset and stress me. I must do something about it”.
This demonstration was not attempted solely to convey the direct affect a psychosomatic problem bears upon us, but additionally to show both to the child and the mother the strong link between psychological and physiological functions.

If the blood flow to the hands changes under the influence of mental factors what is happening with the blood flow to the kidneys, liver or the stomach?

Significant reduction of blood flow in brain areas under psychogenic stimuli explains scientifically the phenomenon of temporary amnesia, or loose connection to reality and lack of orientation. As the expression goes “he’s lost it” or “he went bananas”.
Another example showing how self-regulation training can become part of our education is that of L.L.Engelhard in Spearfish USA, where biofeedback was included in the local junior school program, kindergarten up to 12 years of age. As a preparatory step the value of such a program was explained to both teachers and students. Similar references were made also to the members of the community. The program was named “Information on biofeedback through school education” and as pursued objective was set the minimization of anxiety and uneasiness in students. The techniques of progressive release of chronic accumulated muscular tension, autogenic training and thermographic biofeedback training were selected to teach anxiety elimination and increase of self-knowledge in respect to internal functions, via deep muscular relaxation.
All the trainees, 32 children, followed successfully the entire program. 28 managed to achieve the predefined goals, to reduce muscular tension at extremely low levels, and develop the ability to raise voluntarily their temperature each time stress made their fingers freeze. From psychological aspect their overall uneasiness was considerably limited and their self-acceptance was impressively boosted. The enthusiasm of the team was so overwhelming that many teachers started working with various students employing relaxation methods. This survey evidently manifests that most of the objectives pursued in preventive medicine were accomplished on this human specimen.

Electrothermograph is the device that gives you information on the condition of your vessels at the periphery when you are under stress. Through this device you receive information, feedback, on whether you succeed to bring under your control these functions and desensitize from the stressors responsible for your vasoconstriction and its concomittants.
Without the thermograph, biofeedback would look like a Ferrari without engine.



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