Simultaneous biofeedback of heart rate and frontal EMG as a pretraining for the control of EEG theta activity

Werner Lutzenberger, Niels Birbaumer, Patricia Steinmetz

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Following one base-line session, 20 normal subjects received four half hour sessions consisting of simultaneous feedback of heart rate and frontalis muscle (pretraining). Ten subjects received contingent (CF), the other ten noncontingent feedback (NCF). Subjects were asked to lower heart rate and frontal muscle tension (EMG). Heart rate within sessions decreased up to 19 bpm, with a mean of 4 bpm for the CF group. There was only a weak decrease over sessions, however, because of the strong habituation effect. The following events accompanied the heart rate decrease: (1) an increase of the variability of the heart rate, (2) a decrease of the variance of the EMG, (3) an increased correlation between heart rate slowing and EMG decrease, and (4) an increasing subjective experience of control of heart rate and EMG. After pretraining, subjects received eight sessions of auditory feedback of their frontal EEG theta activity (four sessions with CF and four sessions with NCF in balanced order). There was a weak increase of theta for the CF condition over sessions, but a decrease within the sessions. Pretraining on heart rate and frontal EMG control had no influence on the performance during theta training. It was hypothesized that control of heart rate slowing and theta control involve different mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-410
Number of pages16
JournalBiofeedback and Self-Regulation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1976

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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