Stress reduction by technology? An experimental study into the effects of brainmachines on burnout and state anxiety

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2000 Jun;25(2):93-101. doi: 10.1023/a:1009514824951.


Stress and burnout are widely acknowledged as major causes of societal and individual problems in the Western world. In order to reduce material and immaterial expenses, increased efforts are made to enhance relaxation and stress reduction. Based on neuropsychological findings, alternative ways have been explored, one of them being the application of so-called brain wave synchronizers, which are said to induce a relaxation response by entraining alpha brain-wave activity (8-13 Hz) through audiovisual stimulation. A double blind, quasi-experiment was conducted among employees at a Dutch addiction care center to investigate the possible effects of two distinct brainmachine programs on burnout and anxiety. Subjects in both conditions showed a significant, immediate decrease in state anxiety as assessed by Spielberger's State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and reported a range of subjective effects. However, a long-term effect on burnout, as measured with Maslach's Burnout Inventory (MBI-NL), could not be established. A long-term effect on anxiety (STAI), as investigated by interrupted time-series measurement, could not be established either. These and other findings suggest that the major claims with respect to these machines cannot hold over time, although pleasant short-term effects do occur. Individual differences in baseline responsivity, the stable character of burnout dimensions, or the ill-defined nature of relaxation, or a combination of these, may account for these results.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Biofeedback, Psychology*
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Burnout, Professional / therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome