Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The physiological effects and processes of biofeedback procedures are important issues in relaxation training. The purpose of this study was to assess the extent of cross-system generalization and the processes by which it may occur. Specifically, do different biofeedback tasks produce different patterns of response across systems and, are the physiological processes different for each biofeedback task, or are they similar processes in all tasks? Forty-eight volunteers participated in three one-hour sessions and randomly assigned to one of four groups as follows; (1) increase hand-temperature, (2) decrease frontalis-EMG, (3) decrease hand-temperature, and (4) control. Subjects received training as indicated in sessions 1 and 2. In session 3 all participants were trained to increase hand-temperature. An adaptation period, a 10-minute baseline, and three 10-minute training trials comprised each session. Hand-temperature, frontalis-EMG, skin conductance, and heart rate were measured throughout. Feedback was provided by a variable-pitched tone. Cross-system patterning involved comparing mean values of each system across trials in sessions 1 and 2. MANOVA results indicated the patterns produced by the four tasks were significantly different, and described as follows; (1) hand-temperature-increase training produced the most generalized relaxation effect, (2) EMG-reduction produced the lowest EMG levels, but did not generalize to other physiological systems, and (3) hand-temperature-decrease training generalized to other systems in the direction of sympathetic arousal. Transfer of training was assessed by comparing group performance in session 3. Group means for each trial were compared covarying the baseline means. There was a significant group x trial interaction. In general, the effects of prior training diminished as new learning took place. Group 1 was most successful. Group 4 was initially lowest, but improved with subsequent training. Group 3 was more successful in learning the new task than group 2. These findings suggest that specific experience in altering a system's functioning, even if it is in the opposite direction of arousal, is more helpful than training in another system that is in the same direction of sympathetic arousal. These results suggest that EMG and hand-temperature biofeedback training are distinct treatments resulting in different physiological patterns across systems. EMG training appears specific in its effect, while hand-temperature training seems to have generalized effects.