The transformative benefits of neurofeedback therapy

Discover the life-changing effects of neurofeedback therapy for ADHD, PTSD, and other conditions. Learn how EEG biofeedback can improve brain function.

Welcome to Silicon Valley! World renowned technology hub, where the pursuit of excellence is a way of life. Here we're not just trying to get by - we're all looking for an edge. Whether we want to level up professionally, unlock hidden potential within ourselves, or just hack life itself, many of us are on our own personal mission. And this is where brain training comes in - it's not just about thinking outside the box, it's about re-wiring the box itself, optimizing neural pathways, and unleashing our latent superpowers.

What is Neurofeedback Therapy?

Neurofeedback has been around for ages - also known as EEG Biofeedback, it has a rich history dating back to the 1960s. It evolved from research on operant conditioning and neurophysiology, when researchers discovered that individuals could learn to  control their brainwave patterns and optimize brain function through real-time monitoring and feedback. The technology advanced over the years, with the development of computer-based systems and more precise measurements. Toady, high performers around the world use neurofeedback to improve their game or gain an edge in the corporate world.

Monitoring Brainwave Activity

At the heart of neurofeedback is the QEEG. A good clinician will typically begin by placing an electrode cap on your head, and measuring your brain waves in different states - eyes open, eyes closed, and performing a task. This provides a wealth of insight, for example do you have enough beta waves to sustain focus and attention, enough alpha waves to relax, or does your brain show signs of a brain injury. The clinician will then research your case, typically spending several hours to examine the data and develop a hypothesis and chart a personalized training plan for you. This application of applied neuroscience has incredible potential to help patients relieve a wide variety of symptoms.

A Well-Kept Secret

Man whispering a secret

This year, I attended the annual International Society for Neuroregulation & Research conference in Dallas, TX. (Note to self: Dallas is scorching hot in the summer!) I was reminded of what a well-kept secret neurofeedback is - there were approximately 250 attendees at a conference that has been running for 35 years! Historically, neurofeedback has been primarily employed for clinical applications, addressing issues ranging from anxiety and ADHD to depression and more. It has seen limited usage for "peak performance," helping individuals who "don't need therapy" to enhance their performance.

The Efficacy Of Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback has a rich history dating back to the 1960s, when it began in research on operant conditioning and neurophysiology. Since then, a rich collection of clinical research and validated studies has accumulated. Based on insights from “Evidence-Based Practice in Biofeedback and Neurofeedback,” a book that surveys the body of research in the field, neurofeedback presents a promising, non-pharmacological approach for managing ADHD (note that a new 2023 edition of this work is available on Amazon). It has undergone rigorous scientific evaluation, demonstrating its efficacy in enhancing cognitive function and behavior in individuals with ADHD. The research supports neurofeedback as a viable treatment option, aligning with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s clinical guidelines.

ADHD is just one example. Neurofeedback research has shown neurofeedback can help a variety of health conditions and symptoms from ADHD to anxiety disorders, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

It's important to be clear that neurofeedback does not treat or prevent specific medical disorders. Instead, it provides an alternative approach to addressing nervous system imbalances and improves your ability to self regulate. With improved self-regulation, the symptoms of many conditions can be managed. 

 Who Can Benefit From Neurofeedback?

Three thumbs up

The truth is, we could all benefit from tuning up our brain waves and improving our self-regulation. A lifetime of experiences has conditioned our thinking, sometimes for better but often for worse, leaving maladaptive patterns that were once useful to now get in our way. Consider anxiety and overthinking - that may have been useful in a terribly detail oriented situation, and that anxiety could have helped you make it through school exams - but it's time to let go of these patterns.

Here are a few of the most common benefits people realize with brain training:

Improve Attention and ADHD Symptoms

Attention acts as a cognitive filter and facilitator, directing our mental resources toward relevant information and cognitive processes. It is essential for perception, memory, problem solving, learning, language, and many other cognitive functions. With poor attentional control, our cognitive abilities would be severely limited, and our ability to interact with and adapt to our environment would be compromised.

 One of the hallmarks of poor attention are excess slow wave brain activity in the front of the brain. Slow Theta (4-8 Hz) brain wave activity is present when we are daydreaming or fantasizing and are commonly associated with creativity and intuition, but they can be problematic if we're trying to concentrate! One of the tenets of peak performance is always being able to shift into the necessary state for the task at hand. We need that theta to fuel our intuition and creativity, without it hogging the stage when we need our executive function. At some point in life, it was probably useful to dissociate or "check out" from the world around us. We joked about our face getting stuck in silly faces when we were kids - well, that happened in our brains! But it’s time to let that go.

Man concentrating at his desk

Excess slowing is typically easy to resolve with neurofeedback or neurostimulation. Of course, there are other patterns that can inhibit attention, but they are well understood, and all have similar remediations. Environmental or metabolic factors can also be implicated, and the good news is they all have paths to resolution as as well.

Here in Silicon Valley, having the ability to maintain and enhance attention can lead to career growth, increased job satisfaction, and overall well-being. The benefits impact all areas of our life, not just the workplace.

Reduce Stress, Improve Mood and Anxiety

Let's face it, living in Silicon Valley can be stressful! Not only is this the most competitive job market in the country, it's also one of the most expensive. The growth mindset has pros and cons - we tend to be more adventurous and even resilient, but it's also easy to over-estimate our abilities and take on too much at once. Whether you have a stress disorder or your days are just long, stress takes a toll not only our mental health, but also our physical health, and even has direct impact our cognitive abilities. 

Tech worker stressed out at desk

The first thing we'll look at to gauge your stress resilience is autonomic nervous system function, in particular heart rate variability. Excessive activation of the sympathetic nervous system and insufficient activation of the parasympathetic nervous system is one culprit that can lead to stress and anxiety. But on the flip side, overactive parasympathetic activity can lull us into a state that's too calm to act! These patterns can serve a purpose at some point in our lives - perhaps to keep us alert in less safe environments, or as a response to difficult episodes in life - but at some point, we must let them go. We will use professional grade equipment to assess and jump start improved autonomic balance and can teach you effective self-training methods to continue after your training with us.

Do-It-Yourself HRV training and stimulation is helpful, but we have found the holistic combination of training stress management concurrently with thinking patterns in the brain to be most effective. Lowering the stress or fear response using vagus nerve stimulation has the ability to lower our defense mechanisms, so that training the cortex can be more effective. 

There's more to the story of course - excess fast beta activity could lead to anxious feelings that contribute another kind of stress to daily life. We will look at your nervous system holistically and develop a comprehensive plan to help reduce stress.

By actively managing stress, you can enhance your focus, memory, and decision-making, leading to improved performance in many aspects of your life. Prioritizing stress management is an investment in your cognitive and emotional resilience, enabling you to navigate life's challenges with greater ease and achieve your full potential.

Improve Sleep

In the fast-paced and competitive landscape of Silicon Valley, quality sleep is a cornerstone of peak performance. In fact, for most clients it's the first thing we will work on! Adequate rest is vital for cognitive functions like problem-solving and creativity, both crucial in the tech industry. Sleep also aids memory consolidation, helping professionals adapt and learn in this dynamic environment. Moreover, it has an important role in stress management and mood regulation, essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Woman waking up refreshed

One of the most common patterns we see in the brain impacting sleep are imbalances of fast and slow frequency activity. Essential slow frequencies like delta and theta are necessary for restorative, restful sleep, and if they are out of balance with faster beta activity it can be difficult to get enough REM and deep sleep. On the other hand, if there is too much beta activity, or you have trouble letting go of the beta to slip into an alpha-dominant state, rumination or over-thinking may make it difficult to wind down at the end of the day! 

Another common complaint is interrupted sleep. While we don't want too much fast beta keeping us awake and alert, we need just the right amount of low-speed beta in the form of a "sleep spindle" to keep us comfortably asleep. Training the brain is quite a balancing act! The good news is that these imbalances are all relatively easy to correct with a course of brain training.

 Neglecting sleep can lead to burnout and hinder long-term success. Several biohackers have written about the impact of one poor night of sleep! There are many aspects to getting good sleep - environment, diet, sleep hygiene - but we suggest that brain training should be a key part of your strategy.

There Are More Benefits to Non-Invasive Neurofeedback Therapy

Benefits like this are just the beginning. Once you start applying neurofeedback or neurostimulation to remove inner obstacles, and fundamentally changing how you think, you’ll simply be able to think more clearly – and the next steps that may be eluding you now may become clearer! We all have a great intelligence within each of us, but the conditioning of life bogs us down and inhibits our growth.

© 2023 - 2023 James Croall - All Rights Reserved.

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