Learning to train your brain.
This is a fascinating process that combines biofeedback and brainwave analysis. Biofeedback is a way to learn changing physiological activity to improve health and performance. We use precise instruments to measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, breathing, skin temperature, muscle activity and heart function. This information is quickly read and interpreted by trained practitioners. All this information, along with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior leads to desired physiological changes. Over time, these changes can be continued without instruments.
The brain’s electrical charge is maintained by billions of neurons. Neurons are electrically charged (or “polarized”) by membrane transport proteins that pump ions across their membranes. At East Village Chiropractic, we use electroencephalography instruments. Electroencephalography (EEG) is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp. EEG measures voltage fluctuations resulting from ionic current flows within the neurons of the brain. We record your brain’s spontaneous electrical activity over a short period of time, recorded from multiple electrodes placed on the scalp.
Why We Learn From Experience
“The most important thing about birth from the point of view of brain development is a straightforward consideration: the baby’s head has to get through the birth canal and this limits the size of the brain at birth. [The brain] will continue to grow quite rapidly until about the age of 5, at which point the brain reaches about 90 percent of its maximal size. After the age of 5, the brain continues to grow at a slower rate until stabilizing at about the age of 20. If we count the total number of neurons created during brain development, both before and after birth, we find that about twice as many neurons are created as ultimately reside in the mature brain. Basically, the developing brain is a battleground. There is a competition for survival among neurons that is well encapsulated in the popular phrase ‘Use it or lose it.’ “
– David J. Linden, The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams and God
As it may not be possible for a brain to grow any larger, we must therefore rely on experience to learn – not genetics.
Every organ, including the brain, has the ability to self-regulate itself by adjusting its physiological processes, helping maintain equilibrium. We have adapted the ability to regulate our body temperature by sweating when it gets hot. While riding a bicycle, we get feedback from our senses of balance. If we lean too much in one direction, we will self-correct to come back into balance.
Our bodies have a very powerful mechanism (self-regulation) for adapting to new situations and challenges. And the brain has an incredible capacity to learn from experience. Neurofeedback provides an experience to the brain for better functionality and our bodies will always choose to keep what helps it maintain better equilibrium.
Self-Regulation and Neurofeedback
Sensors placed on the head to amplify brainwave activity. This information displayed on a specialized monitor so we can see your brain in action. Like a mirror for the brain, neurofeedback magnifies areas that are working less efficiently.
Improvements Are Typically Permanent
One study tracked participants who had attention deficit disorder (ADD) for 10 years. 10 years after receiving neurofeedback sessions in the study the participants were still completely symptom free.
Why We Learn From Experience
Neurofeedback utilizes our natural instincts of using feedback to learn new developmental skills. We use the feedback received during a session as important information on how each brainwave frequency is performing and how the organ might improve upon that performance.
Just as with everything we learn (e.g. riding a bike), a beneficial lesson makes a lasting impression.
What is Neurofeedback?
As you learn to train your brain, your mind may follow. If your brain is trained to increase its arousal levels, your depression goes away, and, subsequently, your outlook on life improves.
How does it happen?
Just as your brain unconsciously makes sense of all the information it gathers, it makes sense of the information from the specialized instrument’s software. Your mind can not even see, hear, smell, taste or feel earth’s gravitational pull, yet your brain is forever sending neural commands to muscles based on the feedback it receives from gravity. Even though your mind wants to understand and even participate in your neurofeedback session, it is your brain that we are training.
Does anything go into my brain?
No. Absolutely nothing goes into the brain. Sensors are put on the scalp to pick up electrical activity coming from your brain.
How many sessions are required?
Ten sessions, more or less. Reaching your goals and for sustainable results, 20 or more sessions are recommended.
Attention Disorders (ADD & ADHD)
Neurotherapy has really come on strong in recent years as an effective, organic and completely non-invasive treatment for ADD and ADHD. Many properly-designed, peer-reviewed physiological studies with subject patients spanning the demographic spectrum have given this treatment profound credibility. Improvements in ADD/ADHD are quantifiable, so this research is quite real – no hocus-pocus here.
However, there is a lack of research on what attention disorders really are, whether they are genetic or psychological in nature — or both. And as for the drugs given to patients: how are they working? The drugs affect two important neurochemicals — dopamine and norepinephrine. Without an invasive spinal tap, lab tests for the brain’s neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are nonexistent. Have you heard of a spinal tap before drug treatment is prescribed? Neither have we.
Food allergies and nutritional deficiencies may be another cause to attention disorders. That’s one way of avoiding the side effects of methylphenidate (Ritalin). Parents try to improve their child’s attention by modifying their diet. How easy is it to control a child’s sugar intake of sugar and/or highly-processed foods outside the home?
Competing arguments aside, attention disorders are typically associated with an under-aroused brain. Ritalin, Strattera and Concerta are some of the prescribed stimulants. It should come as no surprise that children ingesting methylphenidate have a higher propensity to abuse drugs as adults.
Behavior problems are sometimes caused by seizures — not great enough to cause a staring spell (petit mal) or epilepsy, but enough for tantrums, mood swings, physical violence and other behavioral anomalies. These children also have problems focusing, but due to their brains being under-aroused. Methylphenidate will certainly not address these problems, but neurotherapy will.
After a personalized assessment, a neurotherapy protocol would address issues such as an under-aroused brain or instability from seizure activity. Neurotherapy typically increases the stability of the brain – and its flexibility to move between mental states.
Sitting through an individual, group or 12-step meeting if he or she has ADD, ADHD, anxiety or frequent panic attacks is more than a little difficult. 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 and other addictions (gambling, computer, sex, shopping, and compulsive behaviors).
Anesthesia & Chemo Brain
The correlation between cognitive issues and receiving anesthesia or chemotherapy is not uncommon. People have been known to get attention disorders later in life. Neurotherapy typically has a positive impact on restoring a person’s cognitive functioning if impaired by anesthesia or chemotherapy.
If a person’s cognitive issues progressively worsen over time for unknown reasons, they should seek medical advice for an appropriate brain scan or other treatment.
There are three primary sources of anxiety that neurotherapy can address in different ways.
1. Reactionary anxiety. This type of anxiety can be traced to dysfunctional family dynamics, abusive relationships, or traumatic events. Whenever certain events are discussed, or the person is reminded of something scary, anxiety is triggered. Phobias also fall into this category.
2. Generalized anxiety. 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. 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.
3. Slowed-down brain. 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 crash.
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. Retreating into a trance-like world when their system is overloaded by sounds, movements, and even physical touch is an extreme.
These issues seem to respond best to neurotherapy using slower frequencies, teaching them to slow their excessive processing speed so as not to feel so overwhelmed. Patients commonly experience a significant improvement from neurotherapy in their attention and reasoning skills.
Brain Injuries (TBI)
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 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 after the healing 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, and some case of regeneration seem miraculous.
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. Prescribed painkiller (e.g. Oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet) may do the trick, yet become addictive for many patients.
Recent research on the anterior cingulate cortices, one of the areas responsible for perceiving and controlling pain, shows brain activity can reduce pain sensation by up to 64%. It is believe that people can “reshape” the circuits responsible for pain.
There are brainwaves related to our feelings (both good and bad), our reactions to events and emotional traumas.
We assist 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
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. Some emotional issues are resolved with neurotherapy the practitioner has more access to healing the physical body.
Fibromyalgia seems to be most related to a sleep disorder. Sleep research has identified 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. A majority of people with this issue have PTSD and usually respond well to neurotherapy.
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.
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
Neurofeedback has been used by top-flight and world-class athletes to prepare for peak performance.
We sometimes confuse 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. We give a person an experience of it. Just as a person can’t use willpower to access “the zone” — a mental state in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus. 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, our specialized software will alert you when 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? Not really: 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.
The goal with neurotherapy is to influence the physical connections in the brain using technology as a guide and teacher.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
One of the processes of neurotherapy have shown to improve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and issues people have developed from dysfunctional family systems, grief or trauma.
What exactly is “stress?” A precise definition everyone can agree on is not as simple as you’d expect. What may stressful for some may have little effect on others.
Stress can be helpful when motivating other to get things done. The term “arousal level” is based on individuals performing better at different levels of arousal and each person seeks to find his or her comfortable level. Turning to external stimuli to regulate their brain’s level of arousal is often the case:
• To increase arousal levels, people include caffeine, adventure, danger, a jammed schedule, or drama in their relationships.
• People may use alcohol, pharmaceuticals, avoid crowds or isolate themselves for long periods of downtime — bringing their arousal levels down.
Some 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 become a real problem. Ideally, an individual’s brain would regulate the appropriate level of arousal depending on the time of day or task at hand.
Neurotherapy is a very effective tool for stress management, teaching your brain how to control its states of arousal, and increases the threshold for what we consider stressful.
Neurotherapy’s effects on recovering from strokes are comparable to traumatic brain injury (TBI). The key difference is with strokes the damage can be deep within the brain. Subsequently, issues stemming from a stroke may not have a related EEG signal on their scalp. With head injuries, the outer part of the brain closest to their skull is generally affected. Therefore, improvements can be inconsistent from person to person and issue to issue. The same applies to TBI when the brain stem is damaged, which is rare.
Seeing the positive effects of neurotherapy on tantrums in children are one of the most rewarding. Right hemispheric issues either from a birth trauma or concussion are some of the most common causes of tantrums.
If tantrum issues are not resolved prior to puberty, it generally increases in severity. Add hormonal changes to near-seizure-like activity and the situation becomes more unstable. Receiving neurofeedback therapy prior to age 12 or 13 will see children respond quickly, reducing the need for additional sessions later. There is no minimum age for neurotherapy.