Columnist, CNN Health
Oral Presentation – Practice Track
Saturday, Sept 29, 2012: 3:20 PM – 3:40 PM - LK120
Stress often plays out on the frontiers of medicine, with its reach extending from neuropsychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety and addiction, to chronic and degenerative diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
We have grown accustomed to media stories about “technostress”—the ways in which technology bedevils us. (I myself recently wrote a story about the potentially pernicious effects of social media on young people’s self and body image.) And yet the relationship between technology and stress is far more complex—and hopeful—than many might assume.
While fast-emerging technologies strike some as an indifferent and demanding slavemaster, they also have an equal—and perhaps greater—capacity to serve as savior by blazing innovative paths toward better health and well-being.
I would like to discuss and evaluate three compelling areas in which emerging technologies are helping make dramatic advances in relief from stress, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders.
Neurofeedback, gaming and “the zone”
Many elite athletes now use neurofeedback and gaming technology to undertake brain wave training to heighten their performance, reasoning that repeated visits to the brain state known as “the zone”—the state of consciousness that facilitates optimal performance—make those neurological pathways clearer and more accessible. Research shows that athletes in the “zone” are experiencing roughly the same heightened states of consciousness as those experienced by meditating monks. The technology being used to train athletes to achieve this state has compelling applications for teaching the general public how to use meditation and mindfulness for stress relief and emotional modulation.
Biofeedback to go
Biofeedback technology is being delivered in more innovative and practical ways via a slew of web-based and mobile apps, designed to help patients sleep better, become more mindful, engage in deep breathing and otherwise regulate their stress response.
There has been a move toward providing counseling to patients through Skype, encrypted digital software, virtual reality/gaming and mobile application-based modalities. These technologies have made therapy more convenient and accessible—and sometimes more cost-effective—for a much-broader swath of patients.
As we continue to understand the high costs of our society’s chronic stress levels, we may begin looking to innovations in technology for new ways of considering a very old problem and finding relief.