Conventional Neurofeedback operates on the operant conditioning or “reinforcement-based” model. While people don’t know how to change their brain directly, when the reward comes, a graph, video game, or other kind of signal, or a movie coming on (reward) or off (no-reward). Change something and experience a reward. It is so effective and intuitively understandable a model that most people grasp the principle easily. Neurofeedback is in fact a sub-category of Biofeedback, it is sometimes called EEG Biofeedback, or Biofeedback for the Brain.
Most people don’t know what their brains are actually “doing.” They just experience the consequences of this activity as depression or enthusiasm, clarity or confusion. The original kinds of neurofeedback tried to change the brain based on clinical observations: brains too slowed down (TBI, depression, confusion) could be trained to run faster. Brains too speeded up (anxiety, PTSD, hypervigilance) could be trained to run slower. These were “frequency-based interventions” (speed-up, or slow down”).
The other dimension visible in the EEG is amplitude. (How large or “high” are the brainwaves represented in the raw EEG?) If the brainwaves are immense we are into a cortical tsunami, or even an epileptic seizure where activity overwhelms discernment. If they are “too large” as determined by normative databases, the cortex still is not “doing its job of containing the large surges from the lower areas of the brain (limbic system, basal ganglia). Some protocols (Sterman, Cowan’s “squash protocol”) were developed to suppress this activity that leads only to emotionality, bad behavior or crude decision-making. But it turns out that almost any kind of EEG training can be considered “Pilates for the brain” and exercises and modulates both
In Dr. Stephen Larsen’s groundbreaking 2006 book he showed how a new method developed by Dr. Len Ochs, called by various names, or really acronyms (EDS, EDF, ILF, FNS, and finally “the LENS”) could “feed two birds with one hand,” regulate the brain on both the frequency and amplitude dimensions by a simple procedure of small disruptions. The brain could learn to heal itself by these little nudges. (If it was going too slow, it could speed up, if too fast it could slow its frequencies down—and all on its own. It is called: “the self-regulating power of the brain.”)
Below are given a variety of Neurofeedback modalities, available at Stone Mountain Center, and which utilize this principle in their own ways:
Conventional Neurofeedback: Dr. Larsen discovered, early in his bio/neuro-feedback career, that the premises of conventional neurofeedback, while correct in principle, missed something. (it was analogous to the dialogue among weight trainers between exertion and resistance training). No matter what you are trying to accomplish (speed up, slow down) the brain is being exercised one way or another. Included in Conventional Neurofeedback approaches include: Alpha training, Theta training, Alpha/Theta training, SMR training, Beta, and even Gamma training. All of these can be accomplished with the relatively available and inexpensive EEG’s on the market (and in our center). What really empowers these methods is the fact that the brain is exercising itself (whether moving up or down).
The first two examples given below, and offered by SMC, illustrate this point:
Z-score training: uses normative data bases to help the learner (client) bring his brainwaves into statistically “normal” patterns. The theory is that wherever abnormality exists, there are likely problems. To bring the brainwaves into agreement with normalcy (as expressed in “Z” or “normalized” patterns, is to move into healthier, and away from, unhealthy patterns.)
This is a widely popular technique in the neurofeedback community; based on the “operant conditioning” model, and relatively safe and well supported by clinical results.
ILF or Infra-Slow Frequency Training: Originally developed by Siegfried and Susan Othmer on their Cygnet equipment, this method has been also developed by Mark Smith and others on the Brainmaster Atlantis equipment. It uses a reward-based technology (usually involved in turning on or off a movie, along with a tone also demonstrating “on” or “off” simultaneously presented. The method is said to be especially useful in cases of PTSD and also Autism. There is a clinical literature that cites very positive responses, as well as claims that the method is still too new, powerful and unexplored to be offered to the general public.
The LENS of Dr. Len Ochs: The subject of Dr. Stephen Larsen’s first neurofeedback book The Healing Power of Neurofeedback. There can be no doubt that this method is effective, and may reduce the number of sessions required by conventional neurofeedback. The claims of “shorter treatment times” were regarded as controversial in the neurofeedback community until the 2005 “100 Person Study” of Larsen, Harrington, et al. showed that the basic claims were true.
The study also showed, however, that very short treatment times were more likely for people with acute, sudden-onset problems, and much longer (resembling the conventional) for people with chronic, genetically-based, and long-term problems.
The LENS is offered at SMC as one of our time-tested and more effective modalities.
The NeuroField of Dr. Nick Dogris: The story of the genesis of this new energy-and-frequency based modality is told in The Neurofeedback Solution (2012), Dr. Larsen’s most recent neurofeedback book. Looking for a method beyond conventional and LENS approaches to heal his son, AJ, Dr. Dogris teamed up with a radio-frequency engineer named Brad Witaala, to develop the NeuroField. The first iteration of the device had frequencies built in to address not only psychological problems: anxiety depression, brain-fog, but also physiological problems such as Lyme, digestive problems, inflammatory and pain problems.
Dogris was later able to demonstrate the efficacy of his energy-emitting machine with qEEG’s, before and after. Then he built in qEEG evaluating equipment to the latest issues of the NeuroField. It is one of the more often-requested modalities in our inventory.