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Podcast    H3'ed 3/7/10

Sue Wilson; Sports Psychology, Olympians, Neurofeedback and Biofeedback

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Broadcast 3/7/2010 at 1:31 PM EST (76 Listens, 83 Downloads, 1707 Itunes)
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Using biofeedback and neurofeedback to help athletes enhance their athletic performance.

Vietta Sue Wilson's bio:
Sue is a retired professor of York University, where she taught sport psychology, coaching, and self-regulation courses. Her experience includes Biofeedback and Neurofeedback in a medical center, counseling center, businesses, and in schools. For years she ran a program with her graduate students who assessed and trained executives in large organizations including pharmaceutical , paper products, electronics, accounting and the financial industry. Dr. Wilson has served on the Board of Directors for both sports organizations and biofeedback organizations. more

Read this chapter in the Textbook of Neurofeedback, EEG Biofeedback, qEEG and Brain Self Regulation by Sue Wilson Electroencephalography and Sport; Review and Future Directions

 CDs, DVDs, MP3s available by Sue Wilson:

Optimizing Performance and Health (software)

Peak Performance Periodization: integrating skills considering timing and context
PTSD of Losing 4) Nothing Succeeds Like Success; How to Use Psychological Skill Training with or without Neurofeedback

Notes from the interview

sports psychology
equipment vs. old ways based on psychotherapy....

reason she started using equipment--

can measure if athlete was stressed or not with biofeedback with equipment.
Can find out what's really going on, head or body-- even monitor on fields, in swimming pool.

The minute you know what's going on, you then have a chance to change.

Sports worked with
over 40 years I've worked with archery through entire alphabet to yachting

objective is not therapy, it is "what is it you need to do?"

It's performance whether boardroom or ski slopes.

First, is there a physical component to the task.
In board room-- smaller muscles like speech. Learn to control muscles when under stress- nervous, happy.
Common feature is through control-- do through focusing attention and staying calm. Easier with neurofeedback.

During practice, mind wanders, your quality goes down.
A lot of work on attention control when bored-- main feature found with athletes-- not the stress problem, but how to stay focused.
Gold medallist skier-- staying relaxed and cue word to remind himself to stay calm. Found out what worked by using neurofeedback to see what words and ways worked, made him calm and relaxed.

details of neurofeedback
still somewhat of an art.

EMG muscle biofeedback can take one or two sessions
ADD can lead to trouble, in certain parts of the competition, paying attention. So his brain is too slow. It can take 20 to 40 sessions, but we average ten sessions for most athletes.

Kevin Evans has one arm, is a para-olympic archer. Has given up a lot of family time and money to become the best in the world.
All you have to do is find out what is not working.
Not sure when to put bow down.
I put the equipment on him-- found that one pattern in his brain came up, he'd miss the bulls-eye. When I saw that brainwave, I'd tell him to put the bow down. He went on to win the world para olympic archery competition.

Sprinters; can identify brain state that enables sprinters to get off the start blocks fastest.

Sailing: using biofeedback computer games, teach them to pay attention longer

Tennis: Have to pay attention for 30-35 seconds. Watch the ball. That's how long a rally is.

Long distance swimmer-- he goes 18 minutes. He has to pay attention for the entire 18 minutes.

You've got to learn to control your body, then your attention and your arousal.

Everybody things they should be relaxed when they perform and that's not true. They better perform better if they're excited and wanting to perform HR and respiration are up. Muscles need to be relaxed. I train them to be excited. I want them ready to go.
We train them in those conditions-- trying to stay in control when you're excited.

I have them do wall sits, get their heart rate way up and then pay attention.

Standard approach or protocol.
start with breathing, heart rate variability, heart rate deceleration
Hope to deliver that in ten sessions.

Ones that need to fine tune-- like olympic athlete-- will need 20 sessions.

When Tim Harkness worked with gold medalist from India, did 150 sessions-- was first to win gold medal for India.

I do ten, under impression olympic athletes get about 20 sessions.

Most of the benefit comes in the initial part of it when they see that they have control over their body. There's an "aha!"

What about making this available in schools, with non-licensed people providing training.

We have made this into a medical process. If you have serious attention deficit disorder or neurological problems, but if you are using it for sport, I think we could put it into the school systems.
In my province in Canada, they use heart rate monitors to show the effects of tobacco on the body. there's no reason why we couldn't do that with our biofeedback neurofeedback training.

a lot of the athletes have attention deficit disorder.

These are tools. It depends on what you use them for.
It was illegal to take a blood pressure from a healthy adult, in the 1960s. A physican had to be somewhere on site because that was a medical procedure.

Assessment protocol she's developed.
has a database for athletes.

Wants to develop small biofeedback unit with markers for caution, for healthy athletes and coaches.

describes equipment she uses-- thought technology.

working on experimental project with reaction time and has worked with joint angle monitor with gymnasts.

How do you stop old sport habits? Used EMG and found a particular pattern when the athlete got it right, and used audio to reproduce the sound.

Pressure: equal pressure while shooting, for example.

Kayakers-- get slight rotations. Went to kayak store and bought a level-- simple, low cost biofeedback.

Thermal biofeedback- using temperature as an indication for recovery-- people who don't have good blood flow have cold hands and tend to keep that way. I have them practice temperature at home. Have them demonstrate that they can do that for recovery.

People with cold hands who cannot learn how to warm them up tend to have the emotional characteristic of the inability to let go. They are driven. Temperature is the one that drives them crazy. They can't move their temperature until they truly let go.

distance people, who require very long attention spans, have to be driven, have to have great dedication.

If they don't want to work, this kind of stuff won't work.

How to address, with sports psychology, people who don't want to work?
Parents inculcate into children need to work.

Parental support and good coaching, good leadership can help
They don't come to the sports setting with all the skills.

Side effect of biofeedback is that it become part of their routine and then you can show them that they are improving.

A good coach will give you exercises and drills that you will be successful.

What have you learned from your 40 years of experience?

A clinical psychologist told me, "I want your job."
I have to pump up the tires. Your people come and their tires are pumped up and all they need are guidance and direction on where to go, how to work.

When you're working with young people and they get excited... it's real, life, has emotion, excitement, success, failure, it's all built in. You're living in. You better be prepared to be involved.

Heroes; Got to be a chance to be a speaker with Sir Edmund Hillary, gave a talk on Quantum mechanics.
One of her athletes was in a "ghetto" and she would pick him up to do boxing. His mother, living in projects, had four healthy, functioning kids who were doing well. My heroes are what I'd call everyday heroes.

Whether you're climbing mountains, being parents or an athlete, it's understanding that we're all in this together.
quantum mechanics demonstrate inter-connectedness.

Sir Edmund said I couldn't do this without other people helping and supporting me.

Bottom up. True athletes come out of it knowing that someone else helped them. They didn't do this alone.
Olympics for financial gain, fame, etc.
I miss the olympics where it was the underdog-- the person who had a dream to be the best that they could be. There are still athletes or groups like that. When you get someone like that, as a coach, it's joy.

The athletes
coach, massage, trainer.

Reach Sue at

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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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