Biofeedback for Brain Injuries

biofeedback example
Biofeedback loop

Pate’s biofeedback program helps people with brain injuries learn to use mind-body techniques for stress relief, headaches, emotional regulation, relaxation, pain management, anxiety, sleep issues and more.

Biofeedback is an evidence-based therapy. It uses machines to measure a patient’s physical body responses (heart beat, muscle activity, skin perspiration, temperature, breathing, blood flow, etc) and “feedback” that information to the patient.

Over time, this feedback teaches people to recognize their own body cues that indicate stress — and then use techniques to change them. Patients can learn to control heart rate, brain waves, even their awareness of pain by inducing a relaxation response. In turn, this can relieve symptoms.

Biofeedback uses no medication. It has no side-effects. It’s been used by the U.S. Army to create more resilient soldiers. And it all takes place in the mind.

Here’s how biofeedback works:

  1. Patients are connected to a monitoring device using electrodes or other sensors
  2. The device measures various body responses of the patient
  3. The machines then provide information or “feedback” on the patient’s physical state
  4. Patients learn to recognize emotional and mental states by their body cues
  5. Patients are taught techniques that act on these body processes
  6. Patients practice the techniques while connected to the machines, which provide real-time feedback on how successfully they are manipulating their body responses
  7. Over time, patients learn to control these responses
  8. The ability to change the body’s stress responses leads to desired body states for better health and well being

Jana-DownumPate’s board certified biofeedback therapist Jana Downum treats over forty patients a week who are referred by Pate therapists. Jana has been with Pate for twelve years and has a master’s degree from Texas Tech in Psychology. She has a PhD from the College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences at Saybrook University and has completed her class work for Mind Body Medicine. Jana is a member of the Biofeedback Society of Texas.

Jana’s tools include guided meditation, mindfulness, yoga breathing and wearable technology and apps. The goal is to give people with brain injuries a cognitive/behavioral skillset that will last well beyond rehabilitation, something they can use their entire lives.




patient at biofeedback machinePate Biofeedback Research


As part of her doctoral work, Jana has been working on a study of stroke survivors at Pate,  and has nearly completed her biofeedback data collection for the study.

The study evaluates the use of biofeedback during physical therapy to address foot drop. Foot drop is a common deficit from stroke. It’s the inability to pick up the front part of the foot while walking, which causes the toes to drag.

The study provided the additional biofeedback therapy in stroke survivors’ regular physical therapy regime. “Biofeedback is another way to understand the mind body connection for physical independence,” Jana says. “When the patient lifted his or her toes on their weak side, the patient received pictures and sound to reinforce the action.”

The initial data suggests a positive effect. “A couple of patients in my study have seen gains,” Jana said. “Patients can better control their foot and can walk longer distances.” 

Jana expects to complete her study and doctorate in 2018. “I have always wanted to pursue a PhD., and Pate has been supportive with my journey.”


Excellent free apps to try biofeedback:

Insight Timer – Guided meditations

Breathe2Relax – Mindful breathing exercises

Pacifica – Mood tracker, relaxation exercises, thought reframing


Wearable devices:

Spire – wearable anti-stress app to build calm through breathing awareness