We’re all familiar with bodily processes like our heart rate or how hot or cold we feel. But many times it doesn’t seem like there’s much we can do to change it – except try to calm down or put on a sweater. But what if you could?
Biofeedback is a kind of therapy that helps you become more aware of these physical processes and how they can be affected by your behavior. In doing so, you can learn to use techniques that can give you a measure of control over these bodily processes.
Using special sensors in combination with the BioZen app, you can track your body temperature, heart rate – even your brainwaves! By changing your behavior, you can see how to influence all these processes and possibly even control some of them. While this may seem farfetched, biofeedback has a number of practical applications.
Learning to warm your hands, for example, means that you are increasing blood flow throughout your body and has been shown to help relieve migraines.
I’m not alone in saying my heart goes out to those impacted by Hurricane Isaac. As a clinical psychologist, I have treated many children and adults who carry trauma symptoms long after danger has passed from natural or man-made disasters. We health care providers are keenly aware that disasters happen many times a year, and that those treating the survivors rarely have a surplus of resources.
To help support providers on the frontlines of care in emergencies, the VA’s National Center for PTSD and the DoD’s National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2) have released PFA Mobile . This free mobile application assists providers in putting Psychological First Aid (PFA) into practice in the field. The app includes a brief refresher on the main components of PFA, assists with mentorship of other providers, and allows providers to self-assess and develop insight into readiness to provide PFA.
Some primary features that make the app so appropriate for disaster situations include:
Easy forms for collecting data in difficult circumstances
Intervention strategies tailored to unique conditions
No requirement for internet or phone connectivity to run
PFA Mobile is currently available for iOS (Apple) devices and will deploy for Android devices in 2013. If you are a first responder or frontline care provider, I suggest you take it for a test drive and become familiar with this excellent resource.
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The Department of Defense today announced the release of a mobile application to help service members adjust to life at home after returning from combat deployments.
Positive Activity Jackpot, developed by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, uses augmented reality with a smart phone’s GPS to help find nearby activities and diversions for someone used to the high tempo of combat life.
The center, known as T2, used a behavioral therapy called pleasant event scheduling as the basis for design of the application. The therapy encourages a daily schedule of enjoyable activities to improve moods and overcome depression.
“After returning from a combat deployment, service members who are used to a more structured daily schedule may have difficulty adjusting to life at home,” said Dr. Amanda Edwards Stewart, psychologist who led the development of Positive Activity Jackpot. “This can lead to difficulties with relationships, depression and other problems. “
The application, available for Android systems, has an extensive list of pre-programmed activities.
We just returned from a demonstration and tour of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory’s Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research (LASR, for short) — in layman’s terms, the NRL’s robotics lab. There’s a lot going on there, from realistic climate testing environments to autonomous UAV flight testing, but here’s a taste of something we might see used aboard ships sooner than later.
Even in peacetime, fires represent one of the greatest risks to the U.S. Naval Fleet.
To this end, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), with support from the Office of Naval Research, is conducting research and developing new technologies to enable shoulder-to-shoulder robotic damage control teammates.
Through a combination of speech and visual recognition, the robot is able to identify trusted individuals, in this case, the human fire-fighting teammate.
The human is able to provide situational information to the robot by voice and gestural commands. Here, the human partner is telling Octavia the general location of the fire before she enters the compartment.
Using two infrared cameras, Octavia is able to localize the fire, allowing her to target it with the compressed air/water backpack.
Ongoing work is focused on improving the naturalness of the interactions so that the human partners can interact with the robot as if it were another human teammate. Additional work is focused on recognizing and characterizing the type and behavior of the fire so that proper extinguishing techniques can be used.
The Apps for the Army (A4A) competition recently announced the winners for their first internal applications-development challenge, and DCoE’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2) won gold in the morale, welfare and recreation category for their Telehealth Mood Tracker mobile application.
“We want to accommodate the military’s psychological health needs with 21st century technologies,” said Dr. Greg Gahm, director of T2. “Creating tools for wellness requires a working commitment between the psychologists and the technology specialists. I am proud of the T2 team for their accomplishment in the Apps for the Army challenge and their desire to support the military community with innovative and adaptive technologies.”
T2 MoodTracker allows service members to track their moods. Users can self-monitor their mood variations daily, weekly, monthly or even from hour to hour, which helps service members understand the impact of stress and common emotional reactions that follow a deployment.
Service members track their moods on a touch screen using a visual analogue scale which allows users to choose a point on a color continuum to reflect their current emotions, such as feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety or stress.
The application also has the capacity to store information which is helpful for service members who want to be able to share their information with a health care provider.
iBreathe: Mobile Application for Stress Reduction (Image: DCoE)
The commonly referred to fight or flight, or stress response, occurs when the mind and body are challenged by difficult situations known as stressors. In fact, the fight or flight response is a “normal” reaction to a challenge or threat.
While lingering or especially intense stress can exact a physical and mental toll, research confirms that relaxation exercises like diaphragmatic (“belly”) breathing, when used regularly, can manage stress, focus the mind, and improve overall health and well-being.
Subject matter experts at DCoE’s National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2), led by Dr. Gregory Gahm, are developing a mobile skill-rehearsal tool. The iBreathe application will guide users through a diaphragmatic breathing stress management technique.
Dr. Jennifer Alford, T2’s project lead for iBreathe, notes that smart phone users carry their phones an average of 14 hours a day. “Mobile platforms represent an exciting opportunity for deploying training tools that are readily accessible and available on-the-go,” said Alford.
iBreathe will provide video-based instruction that explains the body’s reaction to stressors and how belly breathing can reduce stress. The application includes illustrative examples, narrator-guided exercises, practice sessions, pre/post stress ratings, graphically-charted progress, a journal, a visual stress tracker, customization and a feature that allows users to tag data points with personal notes.