Brain Training with NeurOptimal® Dynamical Neurofeedback

by | May 14, 2024 | Adrenal, Articles, Conditions, General Interest, Neurologic, Prevention

Our Electrical Brain

Our brain produces electrical activity, which can be measured in the form of brainwaves. These brainwaves occur at different frequencies and are associated with various states of consciousness, cognition, and emotional regulation.  Specific brain waves are associated with negative, unpleasant emotions such as anxiety or worry.  Others may be associated with impaired function leading to insomnia or trouble focusing.  Yet some are considered healthy and may be associated with deep sleep, calmness, a good mood or focused attention.

Furthermore, different areas of the brain have different functions and thus certain brainwaves may be strongest in these areas.  For example, the left side of the brain handles logical, analytical, sequential processing, while the right side is more in charge of holistic, intuitive, emotional, parallel processing of information.  The frontal regions hold the key to memory, logic and reasoning.

The limbic system is often referred to as the “emotional brain” and integrates sensory information, regulates emotional responses, and modulates behavior in response to internal and external stimuli.  Dysfunction within the limbic system can contribute to various psychiatric and neurological disorders, including anxiety disorders, mood disorders (such as depression), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What is Neurofeedback?

The electrical activity of the brain may be easily and painlessly measured by using sensors placed on the scalp that transmit the activity to a monitor, called an electroencephalogram (EEG).  Giving this information back to the brain, in real time, so that it may learn from it is neurofeedback.

Neurofeedback involves trying to promote healthy and harmonious brain waves.  A typical session involves sitting in front of a computer screen with sensors placed on the scalp to monitor brainwave activity. These sensors are connected to specialized software that processes the brainwave data in real-time. The individual receives feedback in the form of visual or auditory cues.  Over multiple sessions the individual learns to modulate their brainwave activity consciously or subconsciously to achieve the desired patterns. Through reinforcement and repetition, the brain gradually learns to self-regulate more effectively.

What Makes NeurOptimal® Special?

In the past, neurofeedback was only done in a linear fashion with analysis of brainwave activity and targeted training towards specific frequency bands associated with particular cognitive or emotional states.  Linear systems believe the brain has a balance and neurofeedback replenishes a specific balance through entrainment, which refers to the process of guiding and regulating brainwave activity through the use of external stimuli.  One specific area or side of the brain is typically analyzed at a time.  Brain wave frequency and intensity are measured and the technician sets thresholds that trigger a sound to redirect the brain activity.

Linear neurofeedback works, but with some pitfalls.  It requires an initial assessment or diagnosis and a trained technician who sets goals to augment certain desirable frequencies and diminish other undesirable frequencies.  It requires training and expertise on the part of the technician and is prone to cause side effects by getting into undesired or over represented frequencies.  An analogy would be walking on a balance beam while having guardrails to physically keep you from falling off.

NeurOptimal® systems believe we don’t have a balance but rather are in constant movement and have the ability to react as needed.  Via a complex mathematical algorithm NeurOptimal® analyzes brain activity 256x/second and measures the duration, intensity, frequency and shifts in brain activity.  Neuroptimal trains the brain by giving information to the brain so that it becomes more flexible and resilient. 

With NeurOptimal® the entire brain is analyzed at once.  This limits side effects as no single frequency is expressed without others to balance it.  Plus, it’s not telling the brain to do anything.  The analogy of the balance beam would now be walking the beam with mirrors to show you where you are on the beam so that you don’t fall off.

Because our brain is infinitely cycling & self-regulating NeurOptimal® is also responding in this same way.  The brain is dynamical and chaotic – it can do many things and respond to those things.  Dynamic refers to change.  Dynamical refers to changes in how change happens as it is happening.  This is the essence of NeurOptimal® dynamical neurofeedback.

Brain activity is like an orchestra and when all of the instruments are playing together it makes an incredible harmonious sound.  If one instrument changes the score and plays too long, too loud, or off key, it is easy to hear.  In this way, NeurOptimal® detects changes in brain activity by mirroring ‘information’ (changes in cortical activity) and then the brain will respond by learning a new pattern of cortical activity.  

Neuroptimal® is non-medical and requires no diagnosis, therapy, protocols, treatments, stimulation or entrainment of brain waves.  

A NeurOptimal® Brain Training Session

During a NeurOptimal® session the client sits comfortably and listens to relaxing music.  The trainer gently sticks some electrodes to the scalp and ear.  The client may watch a changing graphic image on a computer screen or not, as they choose.  There is no need for talking or any input from the client.  A session lasts 33 minutes.  

Our goal is to educate and to help the client release expectations. The client is encouraged to be in control of the training sessions and trust their own intuition as to the frequency and number of sessions.  The role of the trainer is to simply help the client monitor for “shifts” in how they are feeling or functioning.  It’s encouraged, but not mandatory, to use some simple journal tracking tools to help this process.  In this way clients may note more subtle shifts.  The trainer does not even need to be in the room during the training session and sometimes the client is more comfortable doing a session alone.

The Neuroptimal® Client

Whether it’s addressing specific symptoms or striving for peak brain performance, anyone may benefit from Neuroptimal® brain training.  It may promote healthy sleep habits and waking more refreshed.  It may help improve mental acuity, lead to feeling more confident, certain, calm or comfortable.  Clients may note improved concentration, problem solving, multitasking or learning capacity.  It may help one cope with things better, becoming more flexible and resilient which makes dealing with issues easier.  It can help performance or sports anxiety.  It can even be part of a wellness program, promote relaxation, help to manage stress and contribute to general health.  Basically, Neuroptimal® takes the sub-optimal, inefficient, out of shape, unfocused, or untrained brain and helps it tune itself up!

NeurOptimal® at the IMC

A NeurOptimal® session costs $75.  The first visit is 90 minutes to allow time for initial education and to answer questions.  Subsequent routine visits are about 60 minutes.  The actual training portion is 33 minutes.  Dr Rollins is a NeurOptimal® certified trainer.


Author

Scott Rollins, MD, is Board Certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine.  He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement for men and women, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other complex medical conditions.  He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com) and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (www.bellezzalaser.com).   Call (970) 245-6911 for an appointment or more information.

 

 

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