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Articles    H3'ed 3/26/10

AAPB's Annual meeting Opens in San Diego

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The AAPB meeting started last night, after two days of pre-conference workshops. I'm attending this year's meeting as a member of the press.

It's a bit strange. Starting in 1978, I attended 25 years in a row, without missing a meeting. I started as a member, then as an exhibitor, then as a member of the board (the only board member ever to get on the ballot by petition instead of board selection). Once I started my progressive news site,, along with running my Winter Brain, Storycon and Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology conferences, I started missing meetings. So it's been at least four or five years since I've been to an AAPB meeting. The last time I was at an AAPB meeting in San Diego, there were at least 1100 attending. This year, there are about 300. Why the drop? Back in the heyday, EMG biofeedback was a major element, other peripheral biofeedback modalities were major elements, matter of fact, the term "peripheral biofeedback was just being introduced to people who only worked with neurofeedback.

Now, there are hardly any EMG presentation and I'm not sure there are any neuromuscular rehab people presenting. Bernie Brucker, as stellar member of the field, who did extraordinary work with spinal cord injuries, is no longer with us, nor one of the founder of the field, John Basmajian.

EEG plays a major part here, but there's also, the other biofeedback org, that formed at a time when neurofeedback didn't, as Rodney Dangerfield used to say, "get no respect." Now, needless to say, EEG is a major part of AAPB. The other major element for the meeting is cardiorespiratory feedback-- Heart Rate Variability training, which primarily involves breath training. Ironic, because ten years ago, EEG and HEG where the up and coming modalities. Now, they represent a big part of the meeting.

AAPB Past President Rich Sherman, Steve Larsen,
Jay Gunkelman and Robin Larsen at the opening reception

Besides AAPB and BCIA booths, there are about 16 exhibitors. Two new ones are exhibiting new software-- one for psychophysiological research, the other for brain and muscle controlled games which sell for $150 or less, including the hardware.

I arrived a day early, missing the full day workshops on Wednesday, but taking in a sampling of the half and full day workshops offered on Thursday, before the conference began in the evening. The two most popular workshops were on Biofeedback and Neurofeedback Applications in Sports Psychology, taught by Wes Sime, Mike Linden and Ben Strack, and Biofeedback training to increase Heart Rate Variability: A new method for treating Various autonomic Emotional, REspiratory and Cardiovascular Disorders, by Dick Gevirtz and Paul Lehrer.

I spent the morning in Peter Madill's workshop on The Science of Symptoms. Frankly, it appeared like the workshop that, on the surface, seemed the least interesting to me. But I'd heard good things about Madill and he did not disappoint. The presentation was excellent and held me through the whole morning. His talk loaded my notebook with notes. One of Madill's primary messages was, "If they (patients) don't become students of their brain, they won't get away from their pain."

Another primary message was that patients can heal themselves, not by ridding themselves of the pain, but by NEW LEARNING, finding new pathways that create new responses to their world. He talked about "imaginal capacities."

I caught the tail end of Wes Sime talking about working with Golfers, then Mike Linden gave a fascinating presentation on working with athletes who have ADHD or Aspergers.

Don Moss and Angele McGrady presented on PAthways to Illness, Pathways to health, describing the steps into illness and into helping and healing, in a new, systematic model. I liked a commetn Don made, "It is our nature to go astray and we are challended to find our way back, over and over again."

That applies to symptoms, to health, even to our moment to moment paying attention as we meditate or self regulate.

Angele described a concept I've known and used for decades-- tense-relax, but characterized this process, used for different muscle groups, as "Stress Couplets."

Terri Zucker, one of the first to use HRV with PTSD presented to a packed room on The Psychophysiology of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Mind-Body Treatment Strategies. She's recently begun working at Rutgers, with Paul Lehrer.

For me, coming back has been a great experience. Seeing dozens of old friends, being warmly greeted and thanked for my work-- both and The content has been great. The community has been great. There are two more full days. If you're in southern California, make a snap decision and come. You won't regret it.

That'll have to do, I'm off to catch the tail end of some short courses, then the Presidential Address and opening Sessions.

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One theme has run through my work for the past 40 plus years-- a desire to play a role in waking people up, raising their consciousness and empowering them. I was the organizer founder of the Winter Brain, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology and StoryCon Meetings and president of Futurehealth, Inc., with interests in (more...)

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