How can a brain-tune up help me?
- Attaining a better understanding of yourself, your goals and values
- Developing skills for improving your relationships
- Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy
- Learning new ways to cope with stress and anxiety
- Managing anger, grief, depression, and other emotional pressures
- Improving communications and listening skills
- Changing old behavior patterns and developing new ones
- Discovering new ways to solve problems in your family or marriage
- Improving your self-esteem and boosting self-confidence
Do I really need a brain-tune up? I can usually handle my problems.
Why do people go for a brain tune up and how do I know if it is right for me?
What is Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a method of learning to self- regulate. The simplest form might be holding a 99¢ thermometer in your hand. Tell yourself to warm your hands and watch the temperature increase. It works! With practice, you can learn to increase the temperature of your hands more and more. You can learn other biofeedback methods such as relaxing to slow your heart beat. With advanced computer aided biofeedback learning, you can learn increase or decrease vital physiological conditions.
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback began in 1970 when Dr. Stearman, a professor at UCLA, began training mice to do a task and receive a reward based on making a certain brain condition. In the 44 years since Dr. Sterman’s first studies there have literally been thousands of research articles about the process. These articles prove the positive impact of training the brain to reregulate.
The method is also called EEG Biofeedback. It uses automatic conditioning to enable a person to learn to change the way the brain operates simply and easily. Think of it this way: you were not born with an automatic reflex to put your foot on the brake when another car suddenly pulls out in front of you. You were not born knowing how to play Mozart on the piano. In both cases, you practiced and learned the task. With Neurofeedback, you learn to do a task guiding your body and your brain to do the task at hand. Neurofeedback is training the brain to re-regulate itself as it was created to do. The training is automatic as the brain naturally moves toward regulation.
What goes on inside my brain?
The brain is a complex but elegantly created organ. It weighs about 3 ½ pounds. It is a fatty, watery organ laced with blood vessels and nerve fibers inside a hard shell, the skull. It consumes 60% of the glucose the body produces. As the chemistry in the brain operates, electricity is generated. We call this electricity, “Brain Waves,” or technically, electroencephalography (EEG). When you take a pill, this changes the blood chemistry. When we train the brain, the brain waves are changed toward better regulation. In turn, the blood chemistry also changes.
What are “Brain Waves?”
The brain is our body’s master computer. It is far more elegant and complex than the fastest man made super computer. Computer aided EEG measurement reveals much about the way the brain operates. The brain makes “frequencies” governing different activities from sleep to deep concentration to creative problem solving. Brain waves are grouped in bands: Delta, Theta, Alpha and Beta. There are no “bad frequencies,” but for example, if there is too much Delta in the daytime, the person will be slow and lethargic. Theta is related to creative problem solving, but continued Theta puts a person in a dreamlike state, inattentive. Alpha is idling, prayerful, and meditative, but too much Alpha makes a blunted response, out of touch. Beta is cognitive functioning, but too much Beta causes anxiety.
Brainwaves regulate how well you can pay attention, and how much you are aroused. The brain waves need to be flexible to adjust to the task at hand. If your brain cannot adjust to the task at hand, it lacks flexibility. If there is too much arousal, the brain cannot settle to deep concentration. Too much arousal leads to the inability to relax. Arousal, frustration, number of tasks, and the pace of life can lead the brain to deregulate. A deregulated brain can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and poor concentration.
With the fast computers we have at the present time, brainwaves can be recorded from all of the twenty major parts of the brain in real time. In this real time environment, we can do feedback to cause the brain to reregulate improving its functioning. When the regulation is improved, psychological functioning is improved.
What causes the brain to get “messed up?”
The brain gets pushed out of regulation by illness, physical or emotional distress, and injury either to the body or to the brain from a whack to the head. In other cultures with a steady pace in life and long term stability in work and residence, research shows the brain to be very stable over many years of life. In today’s complex culture and fast pace, the brain can become deregulated just from trying to do everything and keep up with the fast pace.
Stress without distress is motivating. Continued stress without relief causes distress. Distress causes the brain to decrease regulation. Poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and toxic substances are known to cause the brain to deregulate. Correcting the internal environment is part of the solution: enough rest, good food, and good physical functioning. Improving the brain’s regulation and improving relationships with significant people in our lives is the rest of the solution.
One lady after a few sessions said, “I can tell you are tuning up my brain, but I have to change the way I think.” A week later she said, “Tuning up my brain is enabling me to change the way I think.” Enabling the brain to regulate better, in itself, does not automatically change the way a person thinks. Talking through a situation combined with neurofeedback is an effective method of improving cognitive and emotional processes.
When there has been emotional trauma, the brain tries to compensate, but it may become stuck. Being stuck means doing the same things and re-experiencing the same things with the same unhappy result. Doing neurofeedback frees the brain from a stuck pattern and enables the person to move forward.
How do prescription drugs affect my brain?
If your Doctor advises you to take a prescription, he believes this will help you right now. Think of this like snow chains. When we have ice and snow in the area, putting on chains enables you to go, but once the ice is gone, the chains actually slow your progress. Drugs may be necessary to get you through a rough situation, or get past a physical challenge degrading your health. There are situations where a prescription is a daily necessity; there are also situations where we become dependent on a prescription past the necessity. A medication may help you get through a difficult situation, but the medication may also have side effects which may be troubling. There is also the possible issue of dependency in some cases. Neurofeedback, on the other hand, is a drug free, non-invasive process to restore efficient brain regulation.
Who can Benefit from Neurofeedback Training?
Originally, Neurofeedback was used to promote relaxation by increasing Alpha. Today with advancements in computers, software, and scientific research, Neurofeedback is effective in improving a variety of conditions.
- Decreased cognition
- Mild Brain Injury
- Sleep issues
The brain governs our physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual functioning. The brain runs our voluntary and involuntary processes. This means from the thoughts about what to do next, to your heartbeat and breathing are regulated by your own “on board computer.” Many people can benefit from increasing brain regulation.
You can benefit from Neurofeedback if you want any of the following:
- Quieter mind
- Respond better to stress
- Improve attention
- Better sleep
- Decrease being overwhelmed in life
- Improve your enjoyment of life
Many people find benefit from Neurofeedback: housewives, people who want to keep their edge, students, college students, executives, retired people who want to “stay sharp,” and people in transition. They report an improvement in focus, clarity, quieter self-talk, attention, memory, lower anxiety, better sleep, and more creativity. The effects of stress are less. One person used a baseball analogy: “The balls are coming as fast as ever, but it seems like I have more time to hit them.”
Neurofeedback training guides the brain to more efficient regulation. This leads to a “quieter brain.” Many people say, “I have less noise.” By focusing on the electrical activity, the body’s chemistry follows to a better place some would call “homeostasis.”
How is Neurofeedback done?
It is a non-invasive procedure no blood, and no pain. A set of electrodes is placed on your head with a mousse like gel placed at each site. During the training you watch an educational DVD that flickers along with a bell ringing. The flickering and the bell automatically train your brain to regulate. A session lasts about 55 minutes. At the end of session, most people feel relaxed and calm. After a few sessions, many people say something like, “This noise is quieter,” or “My windshield is clean,” or “I am sleeping more soundly,” or “My thinking is clearer.”
How many sessions will it take to regulate my brain?
Many people will begin to feel results in 5 training sessions. On average 10-20 sessions will resolve most issues. Long standing issue of many years will take more sessions to resolve. After the brain map is done, we have a better idea of all that is going on in the brain and can make a better estimate. Neurofeedback is not a magic bullet, but an effective, proven scientific method of training the brain to regulate and promote good regulation in the whole body system.