Psychologies – East and West Seminar: April 1976


April 24 & 25, 1976

Sponsored by: Mental Health Continuing Education Consortium
(Boston University—McLean Hospital—Tufts Medical School)

in cooperation with The Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge

Combating stress: Biofeedback, meditation & self-regulatory therapies poster

In the past 150 years, modern, hospital-based biomedical technology has become enormously successful in treating infectious and communicable diseases. Paralleling this success, the toll brought about by stress-related disorders has become relatively more obvious than before the advent of this technology. In addition, the current increase in city population itself contributes to stress. Problems such as anxiety states, bruxism, headache, insomnia, many cardiovascular disorders and even certain degenerative diseases may be particularly responsive to therapies which train internal states and which directly influence the patient’s capacity for reintegrative change and improved homeostasis. These therapies are just beginning to be explored by Western Science.

Recent scientific studies of ancient yogic and meditative techniques as well as the modern development of biofeedback technology now provide us with measures of physiological states and changes in these states. They represent a major breakthrough in the area of self-control of mental and physiological activities.

This symposium, designed for health professionals, will review and evaluate the rapidly developing research and clinical applications of the self-control of psychophysiological processes. In addition to presenting a critical overview of the field, leading researchers will discuss the possibilities and limitations of biofeedback, meditation and self-regulatory therapies in specific clinical applications, in the laboratory and in preventive medicine. Such techniques may provide powerful tools for increasing the patient’s participation in his own therapy and health maintenance.

A forty-five minute group discussion period with any one of the seven speakers is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.


Herbert Benson, M.D., is Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. He is Program Director of the Clinical Research Center and head of the Hypertension Section at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Dr. Benson has done extensive research in cardiology, operant conditioning of blood pressure, and the physiology of the relaxation process. He is also the author of the book, The Relaxation Response.

Margaret Brenman-Gibson, Ph.D., is a Senior Staff Member at the Austen Riggs Center, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, and was formerly the Director of the Psychology Division, Department of Clinical Service at the Menninger Foundation. She has been trained as a psychoanalyst, and practices and does research on psychotherapy. She has authored over 50 articles and books, including (with Merton Gill) the classic, Hypnotherapy: A Survey of the Literature and Hypnosis and Related States.

Wolfgang Luthe, M.D., L.M.C.C., is Scientific Director of the Oskar Vogt Institute, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan. He is also directing research on “neurofunctional implications of education” at the University of Quebec and practices psychosomatic medicine in Montreal. In addition to his numerous research papers, Dr. Luthe has edited, co-authored and authored ten books on autogenic therapy, including his recent book, Creativity Mobilization Technique and the standard work on the subject, the six-volume Autogenic Therapy.

Robert E. Ornstein, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Medical Psychology with the Institute for the Study of Human Consciousness at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, the University of California, San Francisco, and President of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge. He has done research on the relation of hemispheric specialization to consciousness, biofeedback of EEG asymmetry, and the experience of time. Dr. Ornstein is the editor of The Nature of Human Consciousness, the author of The Psychology of Consciousness, and co-author of On the Psychology of Meditation.

Hans Selye, M.D., is Professor and Director of the Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery at the University of Montreal, Canada. He holds earned doctorates in medicine, philosophy and science, numerous honorary degrees, and has been made a Companion of the Order of Canada, his country’s highest honor. His major contributions are the description of the general adaptation or “stress” syndrome, anaphylactoid edema, calciphylaxix, calcergy, and steroid anesthesia. The Stress of Life and the recent Stress Without Distress are among the books and over 1400 articles he has authored.

Johann Stoyva, Ph.D., is Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Director of the Biofeedback Laboratory at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver. His major research interests have been: EMG biofeedback, low-arousal states, theoretical issues in biofeedback, and self-regulation, and clinical applications of biofeedback. He is one of the editors of the Biofeedback and Self-Control annuals and of the new journal, Biofeedback and Self-Regulation.

Charles Swencionis is Managing Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge and a Doctoral Candidate in Psychology at Stanford University. His research interests include self-control of blood pressure, effects of psychological exercises on physiology, and health psychology. He is editing a book dealing with the topics presented in this symposium.

Program co-chairmen are Norbett L. Mintz, Ph.D., Senior Staff Psychologist at McLean Hospital, Principal Associate in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and Director of the Mental Health Continuing Education Consortium, and Charles Swencionis (listed above).

The Program

Saturday, April 24

9:00–9:10 Introductory Remarks
Norbett L. Mintz, Ph.D.

9:10–9:40 Biofeedback, Meditation and Self-Regulatory Therapies: An Introduction
Charles Swencionis

These techniques provide means of regulating the mind and body, and especially of psychosomatic and stress-related disorders. They come from such disparate sources as yoga and operant conditioning, yet share common elements such as a concern with consciousness and with the interaction of mind and body. The disorders most appropriate to treatment with these techniques are also those most easily affected by psychological variables. The placebo, or Hawthorne effect, is therefore important in evaluating research and therapy with these techniques.

9:40–10:40 Self-Regulation and the Stress-Related Disorders: A Perspective on Biofeedback
Johann Stoyva, Ph.D.

Disease patterns have shifted dramatically in the past 150 years. Many of the disorders now prominent involve stress and behavioral components and it is therefore important to change both the habitual response to stress and behaviors which maintain these responses. Biofeedback is one new technique which appears useful for changing these responses, but it has not appeared in a vacuum. Progressive relaxation, autogenic training, and meditation also change stress response similarly, and behavior modification offers techniques to support such change. A model for sympathetic-parasympathetic response in stress and relaxation will be discussed.

10:50–11:35 Film: The Dialogue of Biofeedback
Produced by the Veteran’s Administration. This film will be shown again at 12:00 noon. It provides an overview of research in many applications of biofeedback.

1:00–2:30 Biofeedback Training of Skeletal Muscle Responses
Johann Stoyva, Ph.D.

Training skeletal muscle responses through electromyographic (EMG) feedback is an area of biofeedback research which is being used to change both generalized response to stress as well as specific problems. Applications have been made to insomnia, tension headache, bruxism, muscle retraining, cerebral palsy, spasmodic torticollis, anxiety disorders, and to facilitate systematic desensitization. EMG feedback research will be reviewed and used as a model for issues which also arise in other modalities of biofeedback; basic principles of biofeedback; generalization to other muscles; generalization to other systems; long-term consequences; and necessity of appropriate control procedures.

2:45-3:30 Biofeedback of Cardiovascular Responses
Charles Swencionis

Hypertension, heart rate, and cardiac arrhythmias have been controlled in humans and animals by biofeedback techniques. This has demonstrated self-regulation of responses which are not as obviously under voluntary control as those of skeletal muscle, and which theories of operant conditioning did not predict. This control may be clinically significant and maintained outside the laboratory.

3:30–4:45 Autogenic Therapy: A Medical Approach to Homeostatic Self-Regulation
Wolfgang Luthe, M.D.

Autogenic therapy is a psychophysiologic form of therapy prescribed by a trained therapist and carried out by the patient himself. It approaches mental and bodily functions simultaneously and promotes the individual’s own homeostatic processes. Autogenic therapy has been applied to patients suffering from a variety of psychosomatic disorders, a number of mental and behavior disorders, certain organic diseases, and the psychophysiologic effects resulting from mental and bodily stress in general. It is widely employed in European medical practice and Dr. Luthe’s work has begun to make this literature more available to English speaking audiences.

Saturday, April 25

9:00–10:00 Transcendental Mediation, Psychoanalysis, and the Creative Process
Margaret Brenman-Gibson, Ph.D.

Most attempts to master the riddle of consciousness, whether philosophic, religious, or psychological, deal with the elimination of suffering, the discovery of meaning, and the achievement of that steady state of wellbeing called variously, “fulfillment,” “self-realization,” “ego-integration,” or “unity-consciousness.” Specific application of “non-ordinary” states of consciousness to psychotherapy will be emphasized. Clinical examples will be offered from hypnosis, psychoanalysis, TM, the relaxation response, and creative states. A theoretical framework which draws on Vedantic philosophy as well as on the Freudian revolution will be sketched to “house” these variegated data.

10:15–12:00 Stress Without Distress
Hans Selye, M.D.

The speaker will give a brief resume of his extensive work on stress and its application to behavior, as outlined in greater detail in his recent book, which bears the same title as this address. The lecture will be accompanied by slides, showing biologic processes and medical observations that illustrate the manner in which a satisfactory philosophy of life and code of behavior can be based exclusively on scientific principles.

1:30–3:15 The Relaxation Response
Herbert Benson, M.D.

An examination of the commonalities underlying various meditation and relaxation techniques reveals a basic psychophysiological pattern—the relaxation response—which is the counterpart to the fight-or-flight response. Since the fight-or-flight response is frequently and inappropriately elicited in our society, leading to and making worse a variety of prevalent diseases, such as hypertension, the regular elicitation of the relaxation response could counteract these undesirable effects. The physiology, history, and clinical usefulness of the relaxation response will be discussed and the elicitation of the relaxation response demonstrated. The relaxation response will also be compared with biofeedback.

3:20-4:05 Group discussions with Dr. Stoyva, Mr. Swencionis, Dr. Luthe, Dr. Brenman-Gibson, Dr. Selye, Dr. Benson, or Dr. Ornstein

4:15-5:30 The Psychology of Self-Regulatory Therapies and Meditation
Robert E. Ornstein, Ph.D.

Many of the practices of esoteric traditions have common elements, although they may appear to be diverse. Meditative techniques such as mantra, koans, whirling and attending to breathing all focus attention on one, unchanging source of stimulation. Physiological responses such as EEG alpha and relaxation are also common. Such techniques often form parts of the medical care available in Eastern cultures. The objective study of these practices may yield insights on the capabilities of human self-regulation. Their relation to biofeedback training will be discussed.