Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Wm. Drew Gouvier


This study compared the relaxation responses of neurologically impaired rehabilitation patients during verbal and nonverbal relaxation induction protocols. Seventy inpatients undergoing rehabilitation served as voluntary participants: (a) 20 patients with right-hemisphere brain dysfunction, (b) 20 patients with left-hemisphere dysfunction, and (c) a contrast group of 30 non-neurologically impaired orthopedic/medical patients. In the first phase of the study, all subjects underwent an evaluation that involved completion of screening instruments, self-report measures, and a brief neuropsychological test battery. In the second phase of the study, all subjects underwent two successive relaxation induction protocols: (a) verbal, and (b) nonverbal. Order of presentation was counterbalanced across subjects. The nonverbal relaxation induction consisted of a 6.5-minute videotaped depiction of scenes from a walk through the forest. The verbal relaxation induction consisted of a 6.5-minute audiotaped guided imagery script describing the forest-walk scenes depicted in the videotaped nonverbal induction. Subject ratings of perceived relaxation (vertically-oriented 100 mm visual analogue scale), unilateral forehead surface electromyographic (EMG) activity, and unilateral digital (index finger) skin temperature were the dependent measures of experimental outcome. Ratings of perceived relaxation were made several times throughout the experimental procedure: before and after application of physiological recording sensors; after the first 3.5-minute benign distractor task, 6.5-minute resting baseline, and 6.5-minute relaxation induction; and after the second benign distractor task, resting baseline, and relaxation induction. Physiological data were recorded during both sets of baseline and relaxation induction intervals. Results of separate 3 x 2 x 4 (patient groups (between) x order of relaxation inductions (between)x treatments (within)) repeated measures ANOVAs for each of the dependent measures indicated that, in terms of ratings of perceived relaxation and treatment preference, rehabilitation inpatients with right-hemisphere brain dysfunction tended to respond best to the verbal relaxation induction, whereas patients with left-hemisphere dysfunction tended to respond best to the nonverbal induction. Ancillary findings and the implications for further use of the nonverbal relaxation induction in clinical treatment of rehabilitation patients were discussed.