Neurofeedback: Training Optimal Brain Performance
Neurofeedback is a tool for training the brain to better regulate its own functioning.
Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback training, based on directly measuring brain function, (usually in the form of EEG or brain waves) and then feeding this information back in real time so that the brain can adjust its own functioning – like holding a mirror up to the brain. In addition, the feedback rewards the brain when it accesses some desirable state.
Neurofeedback training can optimise cognitive performance, also emotional well-being. A particular strength of neurofeedback is in training "executive function" which includes focus and stable attention (concentration). Stable but flexible attention is skill everyone can benefit from, and moreover, anxiety and mood problems tend to show up as an inability to focus in the present moment, or preoccupation with either past (things that went wrong) or future (things that might go wrong).
Home Training Business Model
Neurofeedback typically takes a lot of sessions (20 to 100), and neurofeedback practitioners charge up to several thousand pounds. In my own practice I focus on preparing clients for, and guiding them in home training. By buying low cost but highly functional neurofeedback hardware and software, home training is often the most cost-effective route.
To this end I developed Mind-Body Training Tools Biofeedback & Neurofeedback software. I'm also working on an online (video-based) training course teaching you how to use neurofeedback, and aimed at both professionals (coaches, therapists) and biohacking enthusiasts. Read more about my neurofeedback home training programme (in development) here.
(Please note, for issues relating to emotional resilience I recommend starting with other forms of biofeedback which are more efficient - often neurofeedback is not needed.)
How Does Neurofeedback Create Change?
- Neurofeedback is a form of learning, based on simple conditioning.
- Neurofeedback stimulates neuroplasticity – as does any learning activity, but the difference is that with neurofeedback it is guided or targeted.
- Neurofeedback exercises the brain and builds fitness – it's gym training for the brain.
- Neurofeedback may be a form of challenge to the brain that stimulates adaptive change in the same way that weight training fatigues muscles initially but triggers repair and regrowth in the longer term.
What Is Neurotherapy?
Neurotherapy includes neurofeedback but also various forms of brain stimulation designed to provoke the brain towards adaptive change and improved performance.
Brain stimulation techniques include:
- Trans-cranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) – involves applying a simple constant electrical voltage to the head.
- Infra-red light stimulation – infra-red light is thought to boost mitochondrial energy production and reduce inflammation.
- Pulsed electromagnetic field or PEMF – this can entrain particular brain rhythms (depending on the frequency of pulsing) and may reduce inflammation.
- Audio-visual stimulation – this method also entrains brain rhythm by using pulsed light and sound, which stimulates the brain via eye and ear.
There is evidence that each of these neurotherapy techniques can create lasting benefit. (For example, research shows the Vielight Neuro infra-red therapy device can boost cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients. ) They may work as “hormetic stressors” which provoke the brain to adaptive change in the same way that weight training builds muscle growth in the longer term. However, they are best regarded as experimental and to be used with caution.
Low cost consumer devices are available, and are increasingly widely used in the biohacking community.
EEG assessment can help guide the decision as to the best way to use these methods.
I don't personally use any of these techniques with my clients, nor do I specifically recommend their use, but for those who want to experiment I can provide information and assessments.
MIND-BODY TRAINING TOOLS
Biofeedback & Neurofeedback Software
EEG Assessment Module Features:
- Record EEG using 1, 2, 4 or 8 channels
- Works with a range of amplifiers - in principle any device supported by BioEra
- Automated artefact exclusion based on adjustable thresholds, set before or during data recording
- Automated report generation, showing key metrics.
Neurofeedback Training Features:
- Choose from predefined protocols (e.g. alpha-theta) or create your own
- Train with 1, 2 or 4 channels
- Training can be divided into timed blocks
- Session & Protocol reports
- HEG (hemoencephalography) training.
"I sought help for an issue with my attention span. Since childhood I've always found it hard to concentrate on a single thing for any extended period of time, and have always been easily distracted. Although my life was going well I really felt this issue was stopping me reach my full potential. Glyn introduced me to neurofeedback to try to strengthen my brain function. I quickly got the hang of it. I used the neurofeedback first in the sessions and then later at home on my own. After each 20-30 minute session my mind felt incredibly clear. I also felt very present, and any distraction from brain fog or mind chatter was much diminished. After using the system for about a month I feel it has made a lasting difference to my attention. "
- Jack, Leeds