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2010 - Abstract A Study of Biofeedback in a Gaming Environment

by Hawke Robinson published Dec 31, 2010 12:00 AM, last modified Sep 17, 2015 07:17 AM
This chapter reports on a study of biofeedback in a gaming environment incorporating the acquisi- tion and analysis of physiological data sets in tandem with other behavioral and self-report data sets.

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AbSTRACT
This chapter reports on a study of biofeedback in a gaming environment incorporating the acquisi-
tion and analysis of physiological data sets in tandem with other behavioral and self-report data sets.
Preliminary results presented here provide some groundwork toward subsequent study in this area, as
more comprehensive and detailed treatments will require further research. The main contribution and
focus of this chapter concerns our experiences in applying methods not typically available to educational
researchers. Our results are promising, though they cannot be taken to be definitive. Further develop-
ments and applications of these methods will lead to more detailed investigations as to what people may
learn or gain from biofeedback in gaming environments, along with interdependencies of biofeedback
and gaming pertaining to affect, motivation, behavior and cognition, and perhaps especially, to learn-
ing anxiety.

INTROdUCTION
This chapter reports on a collaboration between
the SAGE for Learning project and ENGRAM/ME.
ENGRAM/ME (Educational Neuroscience Group
for Research into Affect and Mentation / in Math-
ematics Education, www.engrammetron.net) is a
diverse collection of researchers with a special but
not restricted emphasis in mathematics education,
concerned with augmenting educational research
with methods and results from psychophysiology
and cognitive neuroscience (Campbell, with the
ENL Group, 2007). The central hub for ENGRAM/
ME activities is the ENGRAMMETRON, the second
author’s state-of-the-art educational neuroscience
laboratory in the Faculty of Education at Simon
Fraser University, where the research reported
herein was conducted.

This study observed, recorded, and analyzed
participants’ experiences playing a biofeedback-
based video game called Journey to Wild Divine®.
The virtual nature of this game invites players
into an interactive realm of seemingly endless
possibilities. This interactive gaming environ-
ment, consisting of graphics and music, entices
and affects changes in players’ energy levels by
encouraging alterations in their breathing rates
and levels of relaxation, thereby determining their
progression through the game. We hope that this
preliminary study will inform future research that
can unveil novel educational implications lead-
ing to interesting new ways to improve teaching
and learning.
bACKGROUNd
Biofeedback has been studied for more than 40
years, and has well-established utility. Many
of its clinical applications have been identified
for quite some time. Biofeedback training has
been broadly used as a treatment for addiction,
attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
autism, and epilepsy. At present, there are more
than 1,500 professionals practicing biofeedback
training in hundreds of mental fitness centers in
North America. According to the Biofeedback
Certification Institute of America (BCIA) (www.
bcia.org), there are currently more than 1,000
practitioners with BCIA certification in the U.S.
and about 33 in Canada.
Why Learn biofeedback?
Biofeedback is based on direct, immediate feed-
back to the person about the state of some aspect
of his/her body, such as heart rate, respiration rate,
or temperature. According to Whitehouse and
Turner (2007), biofeedback typically involves the
use of electronic equipment to monitor peoples’
internal physiological states and provide them with
feedback that consequently helps them learn to
influence those states, “to activate, balance, release
or recover from them” (para. 2). Biofeedback
presenting some aspect of an individual’s brain
behavior to that individual in real time, using
methods such as electroencephalography (EEG),
is commonly referred to as neurofeedback. (Note
that although we recorded participants’EEG, neu-
rofeedback was not a part of this study because
they were not presented with these data).
Biofeedback training has been proven to have
a powerful, positive effect on one’s emotional
and physical condition through many medical
interventions and educational training programs
(e.g., see Larsen, 2006). A noted example is the
“New York Program,” which demonstrated that
a biofeedback program can have a significant
positive effect on school and community. This
effect has been referred to as “The Ripple Effect”
(Biofeedback Consultants, 2008; see also, Imel,
Baldwin, Bonus, & MacCoon, 2008).
Research has also shown that biofeedback
training can be an appropriate and efficacious
treatment for children with ADHD (Fuchs, Bir-
baumer, Lutzenberger, Gruzelier & Kaiser, 2003;
Lubar, Swartwood, Swartwood, & O’Donnell,
1995; Warnes & Allen, 2005). Some research-
ers have further confirmed that biofeedback is
an effective way to control anxiety and panic
(Plotkin & Rice, 1981; Rice, Blanchard, & Pur-
cell, 1993; Townsend, House, & Addario, 1975)
because biofeedback can often be helpful “in
stabilizing a nervous system so that it no longer
makes excursions into panic” (EEG Spectrum
International Inc., 2007, para. 3). Research also
suggests that skills people have developed through
biofeedback training can be transferred to daily
life after they have developed habitual behaviors,
and that they feel comfortable with their new
response patterns.
So, why learn biofeedback? Research and
accepted practice in this area have shown that
biofeedback can provide advantages for people
in improving self-control and performance in
daily life. Measuring effectiveness is a non-trivial

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DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-731-2.ch021

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