Niagara Gazette

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April 25, 2013

Control yourself: Biofeedback helps ease migraine pain and more

Biofeedback helps ease migraine pain and more

Niagara Gazette — People who suffer from problems such as migraines and hypertension now have a new option to help control their symptoms, thanks to the efforts of a psychology professor from Lewiston. 

Jim Abbondanza is using biofeedback to create a system that helps people see what is happening in their body, combined with other psychological tools such as audiotapes to help patients relax so they can learn to control their bodily functions, including blood flow and heart rate. The feedback from the computer screen helps to affirm a patient’s progress.

“If you want to learn to sink a basket, you stand back and toss the ball,” Abbondanza said. “When you shoot and miss, your eyes provide you with feedback that tells you that you have to shoot with a little less strength or more to the right. 

“Without that visual feedback you would not be able to learn to sink that basket.” He added that the brain makes chemical pathways that helps people learn how to do things. That’s why a person can learn to shoot a basket in the same way they can learn to control bodily functions. 

Abbondanza, who retired three years ago, and still teaches part-time at Niagara County Community College, has been teaching psychology for almost 50 years. In the mid-70s he said, being fond of technology, he took up an interest in the study of biofeedback. 

He was the first person in the U.S. certified to practice biofeedback with patients and created the first biofeedback lab in the SUNY system at NCCC. 

One of Abbondanza’s success stories has come in the form of 12-year-old Liz Collins, who suffers from migraines and a form of a disease called Raynaud’s, which makes it difficult for blood to get to the tips of the extremities. 

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