Researchers from Bar-Ilan University have found that a long-held belief in how neurons fire and communicate is mistaken. Their discovery calls into question a great deal of research and opens the door for new explorations into the origin of degenerative neurological diseases. Read more at Medical Web Times.
I have heard from several friends that they missed the news that my book came out a few weeks ago, so here it is again. You may find Practical Wisdom online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble . Or, if you’re local, I have copies in my office. If you like what you see, please leave a positive review. Thanks!
People often ask me whether they are a good candidate for neurofeedback. Brain training is not a medical treatment, so it’s not like filtering out whether you’re a good candidate for something like Lasik, for example. Instead, it’s more a matter of attitude. If you’re thinking about trying brain training, consider these seven signs that it might work well for you.
1. You can attend consistently over time. Training the brain is akin to training the rest of the body in that you can’t just go every now and then and expect results. If you’re willing to come to regular appointments, neurofeedback is likely to work well for you. Conversely, I’ve had to turn away people whose travel schedules meant that they couldn’t attend regularly. For them, it’s a waste of time and money.
2. You’re willing to provide feedback. Neurofeedback is not about a practitioner waving a magic wand. Rather, it’s about trainer and trainee working together to achieve a mutual goal. For this to happen, people who do brain training must be willing to provide feedback to the person managing their training.
3. Your thyroid is under control. Neurofeedback “sticks” the way learning any new skill sticks in the brain. Some things, however, impede this process, and unregulated thyroid disorders top the list. If you want to do neurofeedback and know your thyroid is wonky, it’s preferable to start working with a physician first to be sure that your thyroid is under control.
4. You are ready to let go of any addictions to drugs or alcohol. Neurofeedback is a gentle teaching tool and can be undone by leaving a session and going home to get high. Talk to a practitioner about your drug or alcohol usage and how it might affect training sessions.
5. You are taking other steps to improve your health. Some of my clients with the best outcomes have been those who most of the other things they need to do to take care of themselves: they try to create good sleep habits, improve their nutrition, see their physician if needed, get counseling if needed, and do other bodywork in the form of acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, or cranial sacral work, if needed. This doesn’t mean you need to be perfect in every way; it simply means you must be open to the idea that neurofeedback does not occur in a vacuum.
6. You follow your doctor’s instructions. Those who consult with and follow their treating physician’s advice tend to have better outcomes because their overall health improves.
7. You are fed up with the status quo and are ready for change. The number of people who are not really ready for change but give lip service to the idea of feeling different is surprising. I’m never quite sure whether it’s fear of the unknown or fear of spending time and money on something they know little about and so are skeptical, but most of my former clients will tell you that taking that leap of faith was worth it. If you are ready to optimize your functioning in life and are prepared for changes, then neurofeedback may be right for you.
That’s really all there is to it. If you are interested in learning about how neurofeedback works, give me a call.
I just spent an hour listening to Benedictine sister Joan Chittister speak about faith, doubt, contemplation, and social justice issues. I was especially struck by her story of a journalist who came to Chittister’s soup kitchen to speak with the children they service. The journalist spoke with an eight-year-old girl who said that she had no idea that people were supposed to eat three meals a day. She was EIGHT, in the United States, and never had enough food.
This story falls a bit outside of my usual concentration on neurofeedback and brain science, but to me, building compassion is part of building a healthy brain.
The interview is on a Sounds True podcast and can be reached here: https://www.soundstrue.com/store/weeklywisdom?page=single&category=IATE&episode=12895&utm_source=bronto&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=TS171210-Be-A-Blessing&utm_content=May+You+Be+a+Blessing! . It lasts about an hour and is well worth your time.
According to a new study that was just presented at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting, neurofeedback may work with tinnitus. The caveat is that this was based on fMRI at the same time as neurofeedback training and is not necessarily repeatable in a standard neurofeedback practice. It is exciting to see that researchers are exploring ways to provide such training without needing to use fMRI. For more information (and some pretty graphics!), see Neuroscience News’ coverage here.
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
-Norman Vincent Peale
It’s here! Practical Wisdom was published on November 24th, and you can find copies online at Amazon here, or you can order it through your local bookseller. If you like what you see, please leave a review, as that will help me reach more people.
Science Daily recently reported that University of Connecticut Health has been conducting studies on how teens who were dependent upon alcohol or marijuana and found that they not only had developmental effects in their teen years, they fared less well as adults. They wrote, “Overall, individuals who were dependent on either marijuana or alcohol during their teen years achieved lower levels of education, were less likely to be employed full time, were less likely to get married and had lower social economic potential.” For more information about results so far and the ongoing study, check out the summary here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171105193046.htm
About once a year or so, I encounter someone who is afraid of neurofeedback and asks about the harm it can do. It feels like now is a good time to address this issue once again.
Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback for the brain, which means that individuals have the metaphoric equivalent of a mirror held up to the brain and then receive rewards in the form of audio tones, making a movie go, or advancing in simple video games. It’s non-invasive, and many think of it as a teaching tool for a part of the body we don’t normally think we can control. Given that it is such a gentle tool, it should come as no surprise that:
There are no scientific studies published in any peer-reviewed journals which indicate that a full training regimen of neurofeedback (25-60 sessions, depending upon the person) causes any lasting harm. None.
This fact often isn’t enough to convince people, especially those who’ve read some of the wilder opinion pieces available from so-called authorities on the Internet, so they press for more details. Except, there really aren’t more details. In the hands of a competent and attentive practitioner, the worst outcome is nothing changing. This generally happens as a result of medications or conditions beyond the scope of neurofeedback. It may also come from a practitioner using a one-size-fits-all approach to training rather than customizing training to individual needs. Nothing changing is a frustrating waste of time and money, but it is not a physical harm.
The vast majority of the time, the opposite happens, and brain training feels good. Indeed, most of the so-called “side effects” of training please the people doing training. Quite often, for example, people who train with me experience improved sleep, most likely because their bodies are relaxing for the first time in ages. I’ve also had people experience side effects such as improving academic performance, learning to read music far more quickly than expected, and having aversions fade away. My theory as to why this happens is that neurofeedback is not a tool that precisely targets specific pathways in the brain. Instead, it trains pools of neurons within a couple of centimeters of each other. This means that something as simple as training to relax results in the effects of relaxation in more than one aspect of life.
All this said, in the hands of incompetent or inattentive practitioners, there can be short-term troubles. I have heard stories of practitioners and technicians who have trained the wrong things during sessions and caused increased anxiety and/or panic attacks. Even then, these are transitory—lasting less than a day—unless a person continues training the wrong thing for long enough that it becomes an ingrained pattern. It’s hard to imagine a trainee tolerating that kind of negligence.
Occasionally, some individuals feel tired after sessions. This sense of fatigue most likely comes because the brain isn’t used to what the exercises are rewarding it for doing, and it almost always passes 10-15 minutes after the end of a session. It is not practitioner error or a harm any more than tired muscles after a workout at the gym are a sign of harm.
The Real Question of Safety
The bottom line is that even though I have responded in this post directly to the question of harm, this generally isn’t really the question people want answered. The actual question which lies underneath this concern of harm is, “How do I know I can trust you with MY concern or with MY loved one?”
My response is that I do neurofeedback because I have passion for it as a tool. I’ve been using it for a long time, and I work on learning still more so that I am continually improving. I have spent my entire professional career focused on appropriate service to others, and I promise to you that if you take the leap of faith to work with me, you will experience the caring that underlies my commitment to brain training.
The linked post to an article from Neuroscience News on the importance of sleep and its effect on the brain seems like a good fit for this first Monday after the time change away from Daylight Savings Time. Read it here: http://neurosciencenews.com/neuroscience-sleep-7876/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+neuroscience-rss-feeds-neuroscience-news+%28Neuroscience+News+Updates%29