Really? Brain Training?
Just as you can train your body to build stamina, strength or flexibility, so too can you train your brain to concentrate better, improve your mood or speed up the healing process.
For thousands of years, monks, experts in the martial arts and sages have used meditation and prayer to train their minds. They would spend their entire lifetimes learning complex techniques to sharpen their wits, finely tune their bodies and balance their emotions. In the past 10 years, advances in computer technology have made a much faster and easier option possible. It’s called brain biofeedback… or neurofeedback.
When ultra-fast computers and modern brain monitoring software are combined it is now possible for your brain to ‘see itself’ in real time. Just as looking into a mirror to comb your hair will help guide your hand for a perfect part – neurofeedback guides your brain to calm down (and relax) or speed up (to focus better). These changes carry over into your daily life so you can sleep better, improve athletic performance or do better at work or school. What most people aren’t aware of is that ADD/ADHD is the result of a slow brain. Once trained to speed up, attention span, behavior and mood improve… without the use of habit-forming drugs or their side effects.
Slow brain activity is one thing. What about a mind that races? Excessively fast brain activity will often lead to anxiety, insomnia, depression, fatigue and exhaustion. With high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke on the rise, modern medicine is discovering that drugs are not a good long-term solution. Neither is the surgical modification or removal of body parts.
How Do You Know If Your Brain Is Not Working?
Of course symptoms are indicators that something is wrong, many times your body will not give those warning signs until it’s much too late. Heart disease and diabetes are good examples. Half of all fatal heart attacks will give the victim NO warning. Diabetes can be present for years before a single symptom shows up. By that time, the blood vessels and nerves in the legs and feet are often so badly damaged that the only treatment may be amputation of the limb.
The brain is similar in many ways. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease silently steals the brain’s ability for short-term memory yet the average time it takes for a person to be diagnosed with the disease is seven years. By that time, the chances for any measure of repair is remote.
Why wait for symptoms to occur to find out that your brain is not functioning as well as it should? That would be like waiting to check the tread on your tires until you have a blowout at 70 MPH. Or waiting until your teeth fall out to get a dental checkup.
What Is A Brain Map?
The best way to determine a tooth has decayed is to use an x-ray. The best way to measure the ability of a muscle to contract and move a joint is to use an electromyograph. Measuring the brain’s ability to do its job is done most efficiently by using electroencephalography. It’s inexpensive, non-invasive and very accurate.
All neurofeedback begins with a Quantitative Electroencephalogram (QEEG) evaluation. The QEEG is an assessment tool designed to objectively and scientifically evaluate a person’s brainwave patterns. The procedure consists of placing a snug cap on the head. Embedded within the cap are 12 small sensors that are designed to measure and record electrical activity (or brainwaves) coming from the brain. It is important to note that these sensors do not put any electrical current into the brain they simply record signals coming from the brain. The procedure takes from 30 to 60 minutes and is followed by an hour- long session with the doctor to discuss results and make recommendations. If it is determined that the patient is a good candidate for neurofeedback, the training can begin immediately.
What Happens During Neurofeedback?
Individuals are hooked up to a computer using wires and sensors, and the computer records their brainwave activity. These sensors are non-invasive, as no electrical current is put into the brain. The sensors simply record the brainwaves coming from the brain. Information about these brainwaves is displayed on the doctor’s monitor. The software automatically detects when the brainwaves are properly ordered and it feeds that information back to the patient.
This feedback appears in the form of a game, movie, or sound which signals the patient that the brainwaves are becoming more ordered. For example, a patient is may be watching a puzzle of a picture that is being filled in piece by piece. As long as the patient’s brain waves are moving in an orderly direction, the puzzle pieces are filled in and the patient hears a tone. If the brainwave patterns move away from an orderly configuration, then the puzzle does not get filled in and no tone is produced. The patient is actually controlling the completion of the puzzle with their brain and by doing so; the brain is learning how to regulate itself.
In another design, the patient performs the training while watching a movie. In this case the patient may watch a DVD movie that is being controlled by their ability to regulate their brainwaves. The movie will get brighter as the brain waves normalize and become darker when they become dysregulated. The brain’s natural desire to watch the movie clearly will drive those neurological circuits that normalize the brainwaves and allow the picture to be visualized. The more those circuits are driven and used – the more neuroplastic changes take hold. The patient learns how to use those new circuits during the demands of everyday life.
Neurofeedback doesn’t teach tricks or techniques. Rather, your brain changes itself. You don’t have to “think about” it or “try”. Your brain is rewarded when you pay attention to it and moves in the desired direction. As your brain learns new patterns of electrical activity, it has the ability to “morph” and actually rewire and rebuild itself. It has been shown that effects of neurofeedback have lasted for 30 years or more. These changes in brain function can be permanent.
What Can You Change?
Different types of neurofeedback training in different areas of the brain can help you:
- Strengthen attention, focus, learning, memory, creativity and intuition;
- Gain greater control of behavior, emotions, and racing thoughts;
- Brighten and stabilize mood and deal with past traumatic experience;
- Improve sleep, appetite and other physical functions;
- Overcome chronic pain and fatigue conditions;
- Rehabilitate head injuries, seizure activity, migraines and irritable bowel;
- Improve your ability to stay in “the zone” and perform at your peak.
Other Types of Neurofeedback Used at SW Brain Performance Centers
Just as a carpenter has various tools at his disposal to build a house, we at SWBPC have several different forms of brain training equipment. The instrument described above is called BrainCore. In addition, we have extensive training and experience in the use of the LENS system and the NeuroInfiniti system which are described below.
LENS (Low Energy Neurofeedback System)
According to the book: The Healing Power of Neurofeedback by Stephen Larsen, PhD., Dr. Len Ochs has been working to perfect his unique non-invasive procedure called Low-Energy Neurofeedback System (LENS). His technique distinguishes itself from other interactive neurofeedback techniques by the passive involvement of the participant and the extremely low electromagnetic signal. It has been used successfully with patients having the following conditions:
The LENS neurofeedback technique has a different goal, one of actually disentraining the brain, so that flexibility and elasticity are more pronounced. Dr. Len Ochs has discovered that one does not need to tell the brain what to do as the active neurofeedback systems have been doing. He has found that by feeding back the very same brain waves that various areas of the brain are emitting and adding the slightest amount of change, called an offset, the brain self-adjusts, self-regulates, harmonizes, and minimizes its dysfunction. It does so with an extremely small radio-frequency input that is so tiny (far less than a cell phone) and so short (a fraction of a second) as to be almost unbelievable.
Anxiety and panic feelings decrease, even in severe cases of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Depression lifts; sleep problems such as restless leg syndrome decrease; foggy, cloudy thinking from ADD/ADHD or traumatic brain injury (TBI) gets more clarity. It also helps recovery from addiction by removing the need to self-medicate that drives so much destructive and addictive behavior. And by markedly decreasing anxiety, such disorders as obsessive compulsive thinking (OCD) and trichotillomania (hair loss from compulsive pulling and twisting of the hair) almost always significantly improve. Similarly, there is often a pronounced improvement in those with autism, where anxiety and over-sensitive nervous systems drive self-soothing behavior such as chronic rocking and isolation. Outbursts diminish dramatically, social relations often improve, and children are happier and do better in school. Life is less of a struggle.
Of course, these changes do not happen all at once, or even to every person. There is a gradual change and improvement, although every once in a while, someone experiences such a rapid relief of their symptoms that it is akin to a miracle. The average number of sessions to “brain homeostasis” is between 15 and 20, although significant improvement may be experienced in three to six sessions. Long-term, deep-seated, or chronic problems like autism and life-long severe depression may take many more sessions to show strong improvement. (Remarkably, though, many people with life-long mild/moderate depression find marked relief in ten or fewer sessions.)
The LENS neurofeedback process is not a treatment for any specific condition or directed toward a specific diagnosis. It is a general process that optimizes brain function. However, as self-regulation occurs, many symptoms that have their basis in central nervous system dysfunction begin to improve. It can manifest as mood improvement in people with anxiety, depression, and explosiveness. It can manifest in improved sleep in people with sleeping disorders, restless leg syndrome, or night teeth grinding. This unique neurofeedback technique may also benefit people who are already healthy and are interested in peak functioning and inner resilience to stress.
NeuroInfiniti Stress Response Analysis
This system has been used by doctors worldwide to reduce the effects of imbalance in the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is responsible for survival. On the one hand, the ‘fight or flight’ side of the ANS is called the sympathetic nervous system and is responsible for the adrenalin rush when being chased by a tiger. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in as soon as the danger has passed and is responsible for activities like digestion, immunity and reproduction.
With all the new information available regarding health, the brain and stress, there is a major shift happening in the understanding of the cause of disease and illness. Leaders in health research are no longer chasing the “germ theory” as the cause of ill health and are now looking at the body’s neurological responses to stress (especially chronic stress) as the major cause of the loss of health.
All living creatures have an awareness of a threat to their existence. Humans have a built in warning system that alerts them to all levels of threats. Our 5 senses alert us to danger even when the conscious (thinking) mind is unaware of it. Bad smells, unusual sounds & foul tastes are just some of these warning signs. The subconscious (intuition or “gut feeling”) is even more sensitive and will often trigger a protection response that we are unaware of (consciously). Examples are: an increase in blood pressure, heart rate or respiration. These ‘built in” reactions to a threat are called the “stress response”.
The nervous system is divided into two main parts - one controls stuff you never have to think about (digestion, heart speed, the immune system and such) while the other is for defense and protection. The first is designed to maintain balance and harmony among the body’s organs while the second is meant purely for survival.
Even low levels of stress, over time, can have drastic effect on the health of an individual. What many don’t realize is that stress is unavoidable. It comes in many forms- mental, physical, chemical and emotional. In some ways stress is like the weather. It’s around us at all times. We can choose to stand outside and expose ourselves to the elements (rain or snow for example) or stay inside. Our nerve system’s response to cold? Goosebumps, arm hair that stands straight up and shivering. Dealing with other stresses is exactly the same. Just as we have learned to either wear mittens or come in out of the cold, we can learn how to adapt the brain and nerve system to mental, emotional and chemical forms of stress as well. The purpose of NeuroInfiniti is to measure your nerve system’s ability to handle stress, then train the brain to become better at dealing with it. The outcome is a more powerful immune system, clearer thinking, improved circulation, and peak mental and athletic performance.
As current medical research is now claiming that 90% of all Illnesses are the result of a lack of the body’s ability to cope with stress, it only makes sense that training the brain to be more flexible in stressful situations provides a permanent solution. Using NeuroInfiniti, we can train the brain to clearly communicate with the rest of the body-relieving tension in the muscles, enhancing circulation, strengthening the heart, regulating breathing and calming the brain.
We now know that completely getting rid of stress is not possible. Even if we could get rid of all our stressors it would leave us with no way to make our bones rigid, our muscles strong and our brains smart. After all, it is stressful to study or go to the gym but that stress is responsible for physical strength, memory, mental focus, restful sleep and emotional stability. Isn’t that what you really want?