What Is Neurofeedback?
It all begins with brainwaves. Brainwaves are the sum total of millions of neurons all firing at once. The number of neurons sparking in the brain at a certain frequency (speed) conveys information that defines the amplitude (or power). Brainwaves are measured in Hertz (waves per second) and have a spectrum of frequencies. Each frequency spectrum carries a different meaning about emotions, physical movement, concentration, and creative expression. Issues happen when specific frequencies do not fire optimally for a given activity. For example, it is not optimal for beta frequency, the “go” brainwave, to be dominant at night or it causes insomnia. By the same token, delta, the “sleep” brainwave causes daytime drowsiness and insomnia if is too active during the day.
Neurotherapy can be an effective standalone tool for many issues, such as TBI, sleep, PTSD, ADHD, headaches/migraines, Tourettes/Tics. Yet, for other issues like addictions, eating disorders, smoking cessation, abusive relationships, character disorders, and issues related to one’s discipline for or resistance to change, it is only a powerful adjunct to other effective healing modalities.
Many leading alcohol and substance abuse treatment centers now have services such as BrainPaint® neurotherapy that can help underlying issues called comorbidities, and do not just focus solely on addiction recovery. Why? These underlying issues can become obstacles to addiction recovery. For example, it is very difficult for a client to sit through an individual, group or 12-step meeting if he or she has ADD, ADHD, anxiety or frequent panic attacks. Helping to heal these underlying issues frees the newly sober to be more present for the drug rehab program. This also applies to other addiction recovery programs other than drug dependence such as eating disorder treatment, gambling addiction, computer addiction, sex addiction, shopping addiction, compulsive behaviors, pain medication addiction and alcoholism.
For more information on understanding addiction and addressing the addicted brain in recovery, please go to our web site that is dedicated to addiction recovery. It is also a directory of addition treatment centers that use BrainPaint®:
ADD & ADHD (Attentional Issues)
ADD & ADHD (Attentional Issues)
Neurotherapy has demonstrated significant efficacy for ADD and ADHD in multiple well-designed, independent studies. Since improvements in ADD and ADHD can be easily quantified, it makes this issue very well suited to neurotherapy research.
By contrast, there is a profound lack of research on what ADD and ADHD are, and no one knows if they are genetic issues, psychological, or both. Also, how the drugs work that are most frequently prescribed for ADD/ADHD is not specifically known, but they are thought to affect two important neurochemicals — dopamine and norepinephrine. To date, there are still no lab tests for the brain’s neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin apart from the highly invasive spinal tap. This procedure is never performed prior to drug treatment.
There are those who believe ADD is linked to diet, including food allergies and nutritional deficiencies. In addition, they don’t want to subject their children to the side effects of methylphenidate (Ritalin) They attempt to improve their child’s attention by modifying their diet. These parents frequently discover that it is quite challenging to control their child’s intake of sugar and artificial ingredients outside the home.
Whatever the cause, ADD typically goes hand in hand with an under aroused brain. This is the reason why stimulants such as Ritalin, Strattera and Concerta are prescribed. Some studies indicate that children ingesting methylphenidate are more likely to abuse drugs later in life. Nadine Lamber, a professor of education at the University of California Berkeley, followed five hundred children for 26 years and states that the use of these ADD drugs doubles the chances that the child will grow into an adult who abuses drugs such cocaine.
Something else to consider is that many times behavior problems are caused by seizure activity, not great enough to cause a petit mal (staring spell) or epilepsy, but significant enough to cause tantrums, mood swings, physical violence and other behavior issues. Typically these children have problems with focus as well, but it is not because their brain is under aroused, therefore, methylphenidate will not address the problem, but neurotherapy will.
With an individualized assessment, a proper neurotherapy protocol can be selected that often address issues such as an under aroused brain or one that is unstable due to seizure activity. Neurotherapy typically increases the stability of the brain, as well as, its flexibility to move between mental states. See “Tantrums” for more information on behavioral issues.
There are three primary sources of anxiety that neurotherapy can address in different ways.
The most common type is what we call reactionary anxiety. This type can not be traced back to birth. Its roots can be traced to dysfunctional family dynamics, abusive relationships, or extremely scary event(s). This type of anxiety is quite predictable. For instance, whenever certain events are discussed, or the person is reminded of something scary, anxiety is triggered. Phobias also fall into this category. BrainPaint®’s alpha theta protocols usually addresses this type anxiety quickly and effectively. See The BrainPaint® Difference
Another common type of anxiety is called generalized anxiety. Here, one’s brain is overly activated like they drank a gallon of coffee. It is our observation that most people who have this type of anxiety were born with it, yet it becomes more pronounced with the onset of hormonal changes during puberty. It also may manifest with the increased pressures of the work place or beginning a family. If this type of anxiety appears intensely before the age of 5, the child’s mind can not handle the reality of feeling so out-of-control. Their mind fabricates worries as the cause for this overwhelming emotion. It often increases and decreases without cause. When it’s at its worst lost keys will be experienced as dangerous. While at other times missing keys would just be distressing. A person with this type of anxiety usually has parents or grandparents who also suffered from it. They usually dislike caffeine or activities with a quite a bit of stimulation because their brains are already over stimulated. SMR neurotherapy training can slow their brains down this over activation which makes everyday stress much easier to manage.
A third type of anxiety stems from one’s brain being too slowed down. We are not referring to being slowed down intellectually. These people often take on excessive responsibilities, risky behaviors, or chronic worrying as a way to artificially elevate their arousal levels. They’re often considered adrenalin junkies. When things slow down, they literally fall asleep. Beta biofeedback is always a significant part of their neurotherapy training. This teaches their brains to speed up which has the opposite effect on them. Neurotherapy can be quite calming.
Autism & Aspergers
Autism & Aspergers
People with Autism & Aspergers appear to be extremely over aroused which is related to their sensory overload, hyper focus, and difficulty processing the subtleties of relationships. In the most severe cases they are forced to retreat into a trance-like world because their system is overloaded by sounds, movements, and even physical touch.
These issues seem to respond best to neurotherapy that exercises slower frequencies. This can teach them to slow down their excessive processing speed so that they don’t feel so overwhelmed by the world. One of the first things to improve can be observed in their social interactions, including initiating conversations and their ability to better communicate their needs and desires. Teenagers may begin exhibiting more teen-like opposition, which could be mistaken as a negative side effect. This population also commonly experiences a significant improvement from neurotherapy in their attention and reasoning skills.
Brain Injuries (TBI)
Brain Injuries (TBI)
Brain Injuries usually respond very well to neurotherapy. Immediately after an injury when one’s brain tries to perform a task and nothing happens it stops trying. It’s sort of like when a flea jumps and hits the lid of a jar it will never jump higher than the lid again.
The brain is a very powerful tool that works really well until something unexpected happens to it. After a brain injury, the organ’s process of repair is similar to that of a bad electrician who starts crossing random wires and unplugging circuits until a light comes back on. As a result, the brain may begin working extremely hard to even accomplish some simple tasks. This pattern of overworking gets wired in even after the healing that happens over the first 18 months. It won’t attempt to send signals down pathways once it has tried and failed. Neurotherapy appears to retrain the brain to once again begin sending signals to those original areas.
A wonderful example of this regeneration happened in our in our clinic with a man who had suffered a head injury 6 years prior to him starting BrainPaint® neurotherapy. He couldn’t swallow, was tube fed, and couldn’t walk or talk. Within 3 sessions, his ability to swallow came back and they could remove the tube from his stomach. After 12 sessions, he began walking unassisted and could talk again.
Pain can be a side effect of serious medical problems such as arthritis, an injury or cancer. However, it also exists independently of other medical conditions. Prescription drugs (e.g. Oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet) can be very effective, however, over time they may become addictive and may be contraindicated for individuals who suffer from addictions.
Recent research on the anterior cingulate cortices, one of the areas responsible for perceiving and controlling pain, is revealing that brain activity can reduce pain sensation by up to 64%. It is believe that people can “reshape” the circuits responsible for pain. Neurotherapy can assist with this reshaping process.
People seeking therapy just want to feel better. Fortunately there are brainwaves that are related to our feelings (both good and bad), our reactions to events and emotional traumas.
BrainPaint® providers will ask you 90 questions, which were derived from a large, highly effective UCLA study. Your answers will generate protocol suggestions that prioritize the training of specific brainwaves related to better mood regulation.
The objective is to teach your brain to balance and not be reactive in response to events out of your control. It is a common human experience to feel happy if things go your way, and angry, frustrated or depressed if they don’t. BrainPaint® assists you to live in a state of “What is” rather than should have, could have and would have. Instead of getting your way you perceive options that are better than your way. Instead of getting your way, you get what you want.
Fears & Phobias
Fears & Phobias
Too often we lack access to the root of our fears, motivations, avoidance or distorted beliefs. They evolved from such a young age that we no longer have a memory of how we originally processed these events from a child’s perspective. Alpha-Theta neurofeedback can help bring these memories and experiences to the surface in a very safe way. Instead of reliving the event, we observe it from an adult’s perspective. We then are free to constructively process the matter with a therapist, and formulate simple ways of regarding the situation moving forward. Many times we hold the accumulated stress from our lives in our body, which can cause tightness or holding patterns that can lead to pain or injuries. We have been told from chiropractors and other therapists that once some emotional issues are resolved with neurotherapy the practitioner has more access to healing the physical body. BrainPaint® neurotherapy, specifically our alpha theta protocols, usually addresses fears and phobia quickly and effectively.
Fibromyalgia seems to be most related to a sleep disorder. Sleep research has identified that those with this issue are not accessing the deep restorative levels of sleep. People who have not slept enough for a few days will actually meet the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia. We’ve noticed that the vast majority of people with this issue have PTSD and usually respond best to BrainPaint® neurotherapy, specifically our alpha theta training.
Headaches & Migraines
Headaches & Migraines
People with headaches and migraines usually experience either complete elimination or a significant reduction in symptoms after receiving neurotherapy. Jonathan Walker published research in Clinical EEG and Neuroscience on 71 patients. After receiving neurotherapy training half of them completely eliminated their pain and another 39% reported significant improvements. These results seem very close to what our practitioners report.
Insomnia is one of the easiest issues to improve with neurotherapy. Many times people who have trouble falling asleep report dramatic improvements with their insomnia in just a few sessions. Some people can fall asleep easily, but then wake in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep. In these cases, neurotherapy may also be very helpful in just a few sessions.
When people’s insomnia involves difficulty with both falling and staying asleep, there are usually other underlying issues at the root. In these cases, it may take as many as 40 -50 sessions to improve a person’s sleep patterns. As always, after attaining your objectives it is important to do 8-10 additional neurotherapy sessions to solidify the developmental gains.
Insomnia is not the only common sleep disorder, and neurotherapy can also help with other issues related to insomnia. For example, many people are plagued by regular nightmares or night terrors. This can be the byproduct of an under aroused brain, and typically can be easily resolved in just a few sessions. We will also mention here, because that strange itching, tingling or crawling sensation in the legs is very common in people who have insomnia or other sleep disturbances. Restless Leg Syndrome is more common in brains that run slow or are under aroused and can be helped with neurotherapy.
Here is a list of issues related to insomnia or associated with sleep that neurotherapy can help:
- Nightmares or Night Terrors
- Sleep Paralysis
- Daytime Sleepiness (Hypersomnia)
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Reduce Side Effects of Sleeping Pill Withdrawal
Do you know anyone who takes naps, falls asleep during meetings, wakes feeling negative most mornings, suffers from nightmares, has trouble following movie plots or gets teary-eyed more than the average person? This is what we call an under-aroused brain. There are a few locations on one’s scalp we can provide beta feedback during a neurotherapy session to train one’s brain to wake up, be full of energy and vitality.
Sometimes people are exhausted when they are naturally energetic – their brains already produce enough beta. In these cases, their brain needs to learn how to take breaks. This person essentially burns themselves out with too much cognitive energy, which is sometimes referred to as nervous energy.
BrainPaint®‘s assessment tool can tease out the possible causes for fatigue, and train ones brain accordingly.
Most of us do not have 10,000 hours to learn the art of increasing our alpha and gamma brainwaves to achieve the ideal meditative state, but we do have 20-30 hours for neurotherapy to learn this skill. BrainPaint® neurotherapy gives real-time feedback on increases of alpha and gamma brainwaves. For example, when there is an increase in gamma bursts there is a corresponding increase in the brightness of the fractals’ colors.
BrainPaint® neurotherapy also has a mindfulness trainer that was created with the assistance of Jeffrey Schwartz, MD, Associate Research Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine.
BrainPaint® neurotherapy has been used by gold metal Olympian, Hannah Teter, as well as, World Cup Champions to prepare for their games.
Society confuses power with control. Those who Master any sport or instrument make it look effortless. Their training, commitment and motivations are crucial for extraordinary achievement, but never is “trying too hard” rewarded with success. Similarly, truly effective and powerful leaders are not controlling, instead they inspire and empower others around them to do their best.
Most people have beliefs about what letting go of control would look and feel like, but BrainPaint® neurotherapy gives a person an experience of it. Just as a person can not use willpower to access “the zone” – a mental state in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus – a person will never be able to use control to get BrainPaint®‘s graph to stay green (versus red). Your brain, the organ, learns better control while your mind learns to surrender control. This is a very important distinction. When you have achieved this flow of relaxed focus, the BrainPaint® software will alert you that you are “in the zone”.
When you are playing a sport, do you tell your heart to beat faster or your lungs to take in more air? Of course not. It is the power of your brain that juggles all the necessary bodily processing for you to rise to the occasion. If you improve your brain’s functioning, then you improve your game, whatever your game may be.
How many times have you gotten in the way of your own success? Intrusive thoughts and negative self-talk invade your mind and cloud your judgement. You are no longer in the present – your mind is elsewhere. The more you try to control your thoughts, the more they appear to have a mind of their own. Neurotherapy trains your brain to stay in the present even after you make an error. Being present allows you the luxury of seeing other possibilities versus being locked into ruminating about how you missed your only opportunity to win.
The goal with neurotherapy is to influence the physical connections in the brain using technology as a guide and teacher. BrainPaint® also has a mindfulness trainer that was created with the assistance of Jeffrey Schwartz, MD, Associate Research Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma
One of the most disturbing symptoms of PTSD is a very numb feeling of unreality. Most individuals who suffer with this symptom are convinced that they have forever lost their minds. They have no idea that this symptom is so common among those who suffer with PTSD. This issue of unreality is one of the first issues to resolve with neurotherapy.
Neurotherapy, specifically alpha-theta protocol, is a training process that has been scientifically-proven to improve all the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as, issues that people develop as the result of dysfunctional family systems, grief or trauma. Bill Scott, the creator of BrainPaint®, is considered a world-renowned expert on alpha-theta, and BrainPaint® is the only automated neurofeedback system that replicates the implementation of the exact protocol used for PTSD proven in research.
Our society places high regard on productivity whether it be over-achievers, workaholics, overly scheduled children or their parents who are expected to juggle the subsequent carpools and participation. By and large we have become a caffeinated society and the ability to relax has become a challenge for many individuals. Many people report a constant feeling of “I should be doing something” even over the weekend, guilt for taking their allotted two-week vacation from work or remorse for taking a vacation without their children. Others experience the catch up work as so stressful that they bring their Blackberry’s or laptops with them essentially never really getting away at all.
There is no definition of stress that everyone agrees on. What is stressful for one person may be pleasurable or have little effect on another, and we all react differently to stress. The term “stress”, as it is currently used was introduced by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Selye observed in numerous experiments that laboratory animals subjected to noxious physical and emotional stimuli (blaring light, deafening noise, extremes of heat or cold, perpetual frustration) all exhibited the same pathologic changes of stomach ulcerations, shrinkage of lymphoid tissue and enlargement of the adrenals. He later demonstrated that persistent stress could cause these animals to develop various diseases similar to those seen in humans, such as heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease and rheumatoid arthritis. It is for this reason that stress is generally considered as being synonymous with distress and dictionaries define it as “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension”. Thus, stress has been put in a negative light and its positive effects ignored.
Stress can be helpful and good when it motivates people to accomplish more. With neurotherapy we use the term “arousal level” based on the idea that different individuals perform better at different levels of arousal and that each individual seeks to find his or her optimum level. Many individuals use external stimuli to regulate their brain’s level of arousal:
- To increase their brain’s arousal levels a person may use caffeine, adventure, danger, a jammed schedule, or drama in their relationships.
- To decrease their brain’s arousal levels a person may use alcohol, pharmaceuticals, avoid crowds or isolate themselves for long periods of downtime.
- Some individuals need a combination of both to balance their levels of arousal.
Sometimes these external stimuli work to correct small or temporary brain imbalances of arousal levels, while other times these temporary fixes can, of itself, become a problem. Ideally, an individual’s brain would regulate the appropriate level of arousal depending on the time of day or task at hand.
Most people have come to accept the burden of constant stress as an inescapable part of modern life, and when that stress becomes more than we can bear sometimes our brain gets into inappropriate states and it doesn’t direct our emotions or actions efficiently. We start to break down and develop symptoms, the nature of which depends on our particular physiological fault lines. The result might be addiction, panic attacks, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, ADHD, insomnia, or any of the other problems that seem to originate at the interface between mind and body. Another source of stress is when people have experienced sustained or repetitive traumas – their brain’s can get stuck in a fearful and overly cautious state.
Neurotherapy is often a very effective tool for stress management. It teaches the brain control over its states of arousal, and increases our threshold for what we perceive as stressful.
Neurotherapy’s effects on strokes are similar to those with traumatic brain injury (TBI). The greatest difference is that with strokes the damage can be deep within the brain. Subsequently, issues stemming from the stroke may not have a related EEG signal on their scalp. Whereas, with head injuries the outer part of the brain closest to their skull is always affected. This does not mean that someone who suffered from a stroke will not improve their performance with neurotherapy – it just means that improvements can be inconsistent from person to person and issue to issue. This also applies to TBI when the brain stem is damaged, which is rare.
Severe tantrums are one of the most rewarding issues to help with neurotherapy. When children with this issue improve, it improves the lives of so many people involved with the child. The most common cause of tantrums is right hemispheric issues either from a birth trauma or concussion. It is as if the child’s brain has an electrical storm over the part of their brains that regulates insight, awareness of others, and their ability to quiet themselves. There’s usually a life changing improvement with the issue of tantrums within 8 sessions, although the child will not be finished with neurotherapy after the 8 sessions.
There is another reason to consider neurotherapy for a child who has tantrums. If the issue is not resolved prior to puberty, the issue usually doubles in severity. They already have seizure-like activity in their brains, and now the hormonal changes usually further destabilize them. A man by the name of Douglas Quirk identified this seizure activity in a large population of violent offenders in a prison study, although the prisoners also came from abusive family systems. It is important to note that right hemispheric seizure activity is not a direct cause of violence, but rather this is a common denominator among those who self-harm or gravitate towards violence.
If the child receives neurofeedback therapy prior to age 12 or 13 they tend to respond more quickly and need less sessions. There is no minimum age to receive neurotherapy. The youngest child that Bill Scott, BrainPaint®‘s co-founder & CEO, has worked with successfully was 18 months old.
How can Neurofeedback help in Relationships?
Intimate relationships tend to stir our most basic survival mechanisms. When we fear losing what we have or not getting what we want, we have a tendency to regress into childlike states of relating. These patterns are defense mechanisms for subconscious fears and distorted beliefs about who we are and how others are being.
When we are in these reactive states our frontal lobe shuts down – this is the part associated with emotions, reasoning, problem-solving and parts of speech. When this happens we react in extremely predictable patterns, and there is no chance for constructive communication or harmonious resolutions. All we are wired for is survival and control, which only intensifies the initial problem.
There are two brainwaves related to this idle state, alpha and theta waves, and fortunately, there is a way to train them to stay engaged and conscious:
- Individual sessions of alpha-theta training usually improve the self-regulation of these emotional states. The goal here is for each person in the relationship to become more stable and grounded so that their partner’s unpleasant states are not as contagious. When individuals can remain more objective during a squabble, their buttons won’t be as easily pushed thwarting an escalation of the dispute.
- Couples synchrony training, a specific neurotherapy protocol, allows two people to be hooked up together to synchronize their alpha and theta brainwaves. The goal here is to help the couple find similar states with which to connect. The synchronized couple seems to be literally on the same wavelength with improved intuition, understanding, and empathy.
Ideally, each individual would have private sessions, and then the couple would do synchrony sessions together.
After neurotherapy, long term patterns of abandonment, jealousy, controlling behaviors, communication problems, resentments, and anger tend to spontaneously diminish.
Neurofeedback is a scientifically proven way to improve the way you feel and function in the world by improving how your brain operates.
Neurofeedback (NFB) is a non-invasive neurocognitive intervention that relies on the principles of operant conditioning to retrain brainwave patterns associated with concentration and relaxation.
Neurofeedback is an alternative to medication for most issues that stem from the brain.