Making headway with PTSD and other anxiety disorders
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, neuropsychologist Justin Feinstein is investigating float therapy as a non-pharmacological treatment for conditions like anxiety, depression, and other stress-related disorders.
Before each volunteer gets in his custom designed float pool, Feinstein maps their brain using functional MRI, which provides images of the brain’s metabolic activity. He takes images again after their 60-minute float. The primary outcome measure is the pre- to post-float change score on the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory.
So far, he’s found that floating seems to quiet activity in the amygdala, the brain’s center of fear and anxiety.
Feinstein and his team published their first findings this year (link at the end of this article). Irrespective of diagnosis, floating was found to have substantially reduced state anxiety. Moreover, participants reported significant reductions in stress, muscle tension, pain, depression and negative affect, accompanied by a significant improvement in mood characterised by increases in serenity, relaxation, happiness and overall well-being.
In some countries, it’s just what the doctor prescribed
In Sweden, floatation therapy is covered by their national health service. Here, your employer or GP can refer you to a float tank centre, and there are more tanks per person than anywhere else in the world.
Exploring possibilities of scientifically backed sound therapy
The typical float begins with 5-10 minutes of relaxing music to ease you in. This is especially helpful for those who do not usually meditate or are feeling anxious about the experience.
The track we play in our tanks, ‘Weightless’ by Marconi Union is not randomly selected – it was found to reduce anxiety by 65% in a study. Created in collaboration with sound therapists, it uses carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines to help slow a listener’s heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
In the study, participants attempted to solve difficult puzzles as quickly as possible while connected to sensors. The puzzles induced a certain level of stress, and participants listened to different songs while researchers measured brain activity as well as physiological states that included heart rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing. Apparently, ‘Weightless’ produced a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date.
The best athletes are using it to up their mental game
“It’s the only place that I’ve found in this world where you can eliminate all the senses basically. To be able to try to master your thoughts, to calm your body down, and understand what it’s like to truly be still, for a little bit. In our crazy pace world that we live in, you rarely ever find an opportunity to do that.” – Stephen Curry, on floatation
- Neuroscience Says Listening to This Song Reduces Anxiety by Up to 65 Percent
- Examining the short-term anxiolytic and antidepressant effect of Floatation-REST