Mind-body interventions to treat addiction-related disorders

Wednesday 13 December 2017

José R. Criado PhD is a research scientist at the Scripps Research Institute, located in La Jolla, California. After he finished his undergraduate studies in Psychology at the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, he received graduate training at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, where he obtained the degree of PhD in Biological Psychology. He then continued post-doctoral training at the Scripps Research Institute with a fellowship from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Experimental, physiological, and social psychology

Dr. Criado's interest in a career as researcher originated while he was an undergraduate student in psychology. “Three areas of psychology triggered my interest in research during that early stage of my academic training: experimental psychology, physiological psychology and social psychology.” While Dr. Criado’s work has been based on the biomedical research model to understand the brain mechanisms increasing the risk of alcohol dependence, he has been also interested in the study of mind-body interventions to complement current interventions for addiction-related disorders. About two years ago, Dr. Criado attended the Stens Corporation training and received training in general biofeedback from Dr. Tony Hughes. “My future objective is to study the effects of biofeedback interventions on people from underserved communities in the United States who are addicted to drugs and alcohol and who suffer from neuropsychiatric disorders.”

Currently, Dr. Criado focuses his research efforts studying the contributions of the autonomic nervous system on neurobehavioral risk factors for alcohol abuse and dependence. Several parameters are measured in these studies, including heart rate variability, respiratory sinus arrhythmia and the Valsalva ratio. These measures assess the functioning of the vagus nerve, which regulates the heart beat, controls muscle movement and breathing. “Our long-term objective is to look at the relationship among electrophysiological, behavioral and genetic factors increasing the risk of addiction and several neuropsychiatric conditions.”

“We are now recording the EGC and breathing rate to determine whether these are associated with changes in cortical electrophysiological function. In particular, we want to determine the impact of the cardiovagal tone on changes in the electrical activity of the brain following alcohol abuse and dependence. In the future, we would like to study biofeedback protocols used for addiction interventions and optimize their effects, modulating changes in brain electrical activity associated with alcohol and drug craving.”

Wireless and flexible biofeedback

Having used systems from several manufacturers, Dr. Criado knows the differences. “I was initially trained in biofeedback using the NeXus-10 system and I have used it during the past year in our research collaborations with Scripps Clinic assessing Multiple Sclerosis patients with fatigue. At the Scripps Research Institute, I have recently used two other systems. While we have had great experiences with all the systems, there are some special features that I found extremely helpful in the NeXus-10. These are the wireless capability, the flexibility to change sample rates, the ease to export data to use external analysis programs and the ability to modify screens.”

Based on his experience using biomedical research tools, Dr. Criado thinks biofeedback could play a prominent role in the growth of integrative medicine interventions to treat complex neuropsychiatric conditions. “In the past decade several laboratories have published outstanding hypothesis-driven bio/neurofeedback studies assessing autonomic and neurophysiologic measures in drug or alcohol dependent individuals. The continuation of this trend as well as studies done in combination with traditional biomedical interventions may help increase research funding to study bio/neurofeedback interventions to treat alcohol and drug addiction.”

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