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From heart to mind.

The kinds of mathematical techniques now being applied to the study of chaos in physical systems may also prove useful in the study of complex biological systems. Dana J. Redington and Steven P. Reidbord of the University of California, San Francisco, are exploring the possibility of applying these methods to the interaction between brain and heart in patients undergoing psychotherapy. Such data-analysis techniques can pick up subtle heart-rate changes that conventional forms of electro-cardiogram analysis miss.

Preliminary results show that a detailed analysis of a patient's heart rate during therapy reveals a number of specific, readily identifiable patterns that appear associated with such postures as defensiveness and therapeutic engagement. By correlating shifts from one pattern to another with certain types of behavior and with the therapist's own respnses to the patient, Redington and Reidbord hope eventually to provide a model of normal and abnormal shifts that may occur between psychological states, and to develop new tools for increasing the effectiveness of psychiatric treatment.

"We're in the very early stages of this," Redington says. "We've evaluated our methodology on a couple of patients, and we're in the process of taking a look at the therapists."
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Title Annotation:chaos in biological systems
Author:Peterson, Ivars
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 12, 1991
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