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J R Coll Physicians Lond. 1998 Nov-Dec;32(6):552-6.

Computerised biofeedback games: a new method for teaching stress management and its use in irritable bowel syndrome.

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  • 1Department of Gastroenterology, Royal Free Hospital, London.



To develop and test a computer biofeedback game designed to teach deep relaxation to patients with a stress related disorder and to assess whether relaxation can improve symptomatic episodes.


An open, prospective, single centre study. Department of Gastroenterology, Royal Free Hospital, London.


Forty patients with irritable bowel syndrome refractory to conventional medical treatment.


Development of a computer aided biofeedback apparatus directed at the gut for teaching relaxation to patients with irritable bowel syndrome. The patients' ability to complete a computer game involving biofeedback modulated by a physiological loop that related changes in stress (monitored by electrodermal activity) to animated computer graphics. The degree to which deep relaxation was achieved was measured numerically by a progressive reduction in the sensitivity level of the biofeedback loop. The success of relaxation in ameliorating physical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome was assessed by daily diaries in which global and weighted bowel symptom scores were entered.


A computer biofeedback game based on animated gut imagery was successfully developed. Most patients learned to achieve progressively deeper levels of relaxation after four 30 minute biofeedback sessions (mean difference in sensitivity level 2.0 (95% confidence interval 0.96 to 2.93), p < 0.001). Use of 'dosed' relaxation when bowel symptoms were troublesome was helpful in 50% of patients. It reduced the global symptom score (mean difference 0.5 (0.02 to 0.32), p < 0.04) and the bowel symptom score (mean difference 0.8 (0.04 to 1.58), p < 0.04). At long term follow up, 64% of patients who had been helped by dosed relaxation continued to use the technique, although they had had no further contact with the hospital.


This computer biofeedback game taught deep relaxation rapidly and effectively. Half the patients with refractory irritable bowel syndrome found the technique helpful on most occasions on which it was used. Computer biofeedback games may offer a simple, inexpensive strategy for managing other stress related medical disorders.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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