Masterclass Neurosmart: training, biofeedback and interventions for Police performance!

What are the most effective and evidence based interventions for selfregulation in police pressure situations? When (not) to use meditation, hypnosis or cyclic sighing? What is the difference between neurosmart biofeedback and heart rate variability (HRV) technology? And did we read their breathing paper wrong? In this masterclass I had the privilege to talk with Dr. Melis Yilmaz Balban. She is a neuroscientist and founder of NeuroSmart (Self regulation Training for Law Enforcement). Dr. Balban is a former postdoc and research scientist at the Stanford School of Medicine @Hubermanlab. She has talked a lot about breathing protocols in different podcasts but there is much more to learn.

Podcast video


Yes or No questions:

Is breathing through the nose more effective than breathing through the mouth?
Can cyclic sighing work within a time span of five seconds?
Can changing your gaze alter your emotional state?
Do stress and anxiety have different effects on your performance?
Is building CO2 tolerance through breath holds beneficial?
Should your baseline respiratory rate ideally be low?

Problems with HR and HRV

Heart rate variability (HRV) and its measurement methods.
Use of fitness trackers to measure HRV during sleep.
Comparison between chronic stress measurement and stress triggers in real-time scenarios, particularly in policing.
Correlation between skin conductance response and brain structures like the insula.
Use of biofeedback in training and performance improvement.
NeuroSmart device, its components, and real-time stress measurement.
The significance of meta-awareness and mindfulness in stress management.
Default mode network in the brain and its role in rumination and mental health.
The importance of mindfulness and meditation in reducing rumination and improving focus.
Personal experiences with mindfulness practices and their impact on mental well-being.
Integration of mindfulness practices into training programs for stress management and performance enhancement.

Breathing Techniques. The importance of breathing as a tool for controlling the autonomic nervous system and reducing anxiety.

Online Tools vs. Offline Tools: The conversation delves into the distinction between online tools (such as breathing exercises available on apps) and offline tools (such as mindfulness meditation and hypnosis), highlighting their respective benefits and applications.

Breathing Protocols: Different breathing protocols are compared, with a focus on their effectiveness in inducing relaxation and reducing stress. Cyclic sighing is highlighted as a particularly effective technique.

Hypnosis: The benefits of hypnosis in stress reduction and trauma recovery are discussed, along with its potential application as an offline tool for mental resilience training.

Mindfulness Meditation: The importance of mindfulness meditation as an offline tool for mental resilience training is emphasized, along with its role in improving focus, emotion regulation, and overall well-being.

Visualization and Imagery: The use of mental imagery and visualization techniques, such as imagining oneself in confident situations or practicing specific actions (like handcuffing a suspect), is discussed as part of mental resilience training.

Is the breathing paper misunderstood?

Internal and external focus of attention, particularly in high-stress situations like law enforcement encounters. How techniques like breathing can be used effectively without detracting from external focus.

Adherence and Training: The importance of consistent practice and adherence to mental resilience training protocols is emphasized, along with the need to find techniques that resonate with individuals and can be integrated into daily routines effectively.

The vision for the future of neurosmart, including its role in enhancing self-awareness and self-regulation for police officers and athletes.

What is the most interesting research question to investigate?

Inspiration from researchers like Lisa Feldman Barrett and practical experiences with police officers.

Book recommendations, including “Breath” by James Nestor and “Convergence Healing” by Peter Bard.

Other resources

Blog: The science of breath tools, the visual system and performing under pressure. With Dr. Melis Yilmaz Balban

Podcast with Chris Butler (Trainer’s Bullpen)

Balban, M. Y., Neri, E., Kogon, M. M., Weed, L., Nouriani, B., Jo, B., Holl, G., Zeitzer, J. M., Spiegel, D., & Huberman, A. D. (2023). Brief structured respiration practices enhance mood and reduce physiological arousal. Cell reports. Medicine4(1), 100895.

Neuro smart website