Neurofeedback is a relatively new brain training option for individuals and children and is growing in popularity for mental and emotional fitness. When recommended to them by others, it's often the first time clients have heard of neurofeedback. They start the process of educating themselves about what it is, how it differs from biofeedback, and whether it is effective. In addition to this general education, there is also the question of which neurofeedback device is the best for their needs.
To help with the education process, here is some information about the NeurOptimal® system, whether neurofeedback can cause harm, how long it takes to work, as well as testimonials from some of our clients.
How NeurOptimal® Works
Here iss a short video on the basic design of NeurOptimal® and how it works. In general, the technology tracks brain wave activity through EEG sensors that are attached to the head and ears. It collects the brain's choices as reflected through it's electrical activity at the rate of 256 times per second. The NeurOptimal software then alerts the client's brain to its behaviors through interruptions in music that is playing during the session. This process acts like a mirror for the person training to be able to register and shift the maladaptive behaviors to create mental and emotional wellness. For a more detailed description of the technology and how it has advanced over the last twenty years, you can read about it here.
Is Neurofeedback Harmful?
Neurofeedback brain training is not harmful. There are different kinds of neurofeedback that have been developed over the 40 years the technology has been in development: linear, neurostimulators, fMRI, and Dynamical. The first generation was linear or protocol neurofeedback, and the devices that came later, including the NeurOptimal® neurofeedback device we use at our center, which is the only Dynamical neurofeedback system, arose out of computer technology becoming faster and more advanced in their computing power.
With the exception of neurostimulator devices, neurofeedback does not add anything back to the brain. Linear neurofeedback can have slight day-of side effects from over training at such as feeling a bit drowsy or revved up, but they tend to shift quickly.
With the NeurOptimal® system, it is purely a feedback devices and is adding nothing. It is designed to give feedback to the brain in precisely the format and timeframe that the brain organically uses to optimize its functioning. The brain is a dynamic and nonlinear system and NeurOptimal uses a dynamical format where the mathematics of the software continuously gives feedback to the trainee, as the brain activity shifts.
The side effects from NeurOptimal clients report are the results of increased awareness rather than being true side effects, which are the negative result of adding something to the system or body. Some clients report greater awareness of exhaustion at the end of a session. This is most noticed in clients who report being sleep deprived. The positive impact is that clients will go home and make sure they get a good night's sleep. Other effects clients report are feeling greater sensation in the body, heightened relaxation or calm, and feeling greater clarity.
How long does it take for neurofeedback to work?
Every brain is different so there is no one answer to the question of when clients see benefit. Another factor that impacts how long it takes to work is how self-aware the individual is. The more awareness the client has of their body sensations, emotions and thinking habits the sooner they see results.
In general, clients report noticing shifts in the first three sessions. Reported shifts include a greater sense of calm, focus and clarity after a session, managing their sleep better, waking up feeling more rested the day after training, And usually by the 10th session clients report that they can feel the neurofeedback is supporting them meeting whatever wellness goals they have.
Why We Chose NeurOptimal® for our Neurofeedback Center
In 2011, a student of the Neurofeedback Training Company founder, Natalie Baker, LMHC, asked her at a meditation program if she'd heard of neurofeedback. He was curious about its application in emotional health and mindfulness practice. She hadn't heard of it but as a mental health professional, was very curious about any tools that could potentially help people break their emotional and mental habits.
After reading Symphony In the Brain, written by a New York Times science writer on the history of neurorfeedback, she appreciated how this technology had the potential to benefit clients. Natalie then spent six months researching different neurofeedback systems and talking to different trainers. She spoke with enough practitioners who had started with linear neurofeedback, which is the first generation of neurofeedback devices, and switched to the NeurOptimal® system that she decided to start there.
She went and tried NeurOptimal® on herself and did not notice anything significant in her experience until the fourth session when she noticed a big shift in all her sense perceptions. Sounds and sights becoming more vivid and clearer right afterwards. And after her seventh she noticed greater emotional resiliency, especially when she was tired.
Natalie then sent a few of her interested mental health clients to go try NeurOptimal to help them with managing their emotions and all found it beneficial. The features of the NeurOptimal® that were most attractive to her, besides that it was effective, were that it is fully automated and safe for children to use because it's purely feedback.
Since that time the company has grown from one in-office system in New York City to two in-office neurofeedback centers in NYC and Los Angeles, Pasadena, and 48 home neurofeedback systems that are rented to clients nationally. We also have partnerships with trainers in Boulder, Colorado and Portland Oregon so rental clients can try a session in-office before renting if they want to.
Neurofeedback home kit rentals are a natural fit for parents who are seeking brain training for their children as it is less expensive and more convenient than in-office sessions. We strongly encourage at least one parent to also train with the neurofeedback program. Families who do tend to report the best results and the most satisfaction when everyone is benefiting.
We also specifically target our rental programs in states, such as Nevada, Alaska, Utah and Montana that do not have offices or NeurOptimal centers are too far away to easily train weekly or bi-weekly. We have created a neurofeedback program for remote use with a certified trainer who coaches clients through the rental process.
Here are some testimonials from our rental clients to help with understanding what to expect from neurofeedback and how experiences can be varied, depending on goals and how long clients train for.
For some of our clients, training with NeurOptimal neurofeedback became a life-changing experience. Here's what one of our neurofeedback home kit rental clients wrote to us:
"I’ve used neurofeedback for 2 months - training 2 times a week. I’m becoming less nervous and tense is social settings, and I have less worrying and agonizing thoughts. I am noticeably more comfortable in both personal and professional situations, hooray! It feels great to have found a tool that has truly helped move the needle on issues I’ve been experiencing (and trying to resolve in various ways) for years. I liked my neurofeedback home rental experience so much that I ultimately decided to purchase a system. Thanks! :)"
– Karen, rented for two months and then purchased a home system
Here's a review from one of our renters training for performance anxiety:
"Easy to use, cost efficient and extremely effective. My performance anxiety has taken a back seat and I'm feeling more relaxed in social settings."
- Alex, tried a session in-office then rented for three months
From a client wanting to manage her stress better and be better focused at work:
“I’ve been doing my neurofeedback twice a week and that with my weekly massage, is definitely making it so I’m handling work, not getting overwhelmed by it.”
- Betsy, rented a NeurOptimal system for a month
From a client who rented for two months:
"I rented the neurofeedback family trainer for two months and it was very easy to use. After 14 sessions, I felt more energized - more able to concentrate. Things that in the past would have bothered or depressed me, now just seem to melt away. I'm more able to take charge. I'd highly recommend doing neurofeedback and renting the home system."
Does Neurofeedback Training Last?
The NeurOptimal® brain training method is a learning process that helps us interrupt our habitual patterns and create new, healthier ones. In general, the training sticks so long as we stick with it long enough.
How long is long enough? Every brain is different and so are peoples' lifestyles. As well, people's goals are different. We encourage all clients to fill out our Checklist to track changes every ten sessions. We also coach them to be able to notice when changes become stable and how well they can manage their stressors.
Our goal is that clients are confident that they know their results are stable before stopping training.
In general, clients who rent do so for two to three months and train a few times a week per person. Clients typically feel the training was effective and confident in the results after that time and return the system.
Some decide that they want NeurOptimal® to be part of their on-going wellness supports and purchase a system.
Often families will decide they want to keep a system while their children are in school to help them with school performance and stress during those years.
A good analogue is having learned a second language, once you've learned it you are confident and the the ability to speak flows naturally. But if you go a long time without being exposed you can forget. When you expose yourself to the language again you pick it up very quickly. Training with NeurOptimal is very much like that, typically clients report that once they've completed 20-30 sessions they notice shifts in your focus, emotional resiliency, managing stressors and dealing with stress much better.
That's a good time to take a break and see how they do without training. The forgetting with neurofeedback can be things like having some new and persistent stressors, and old habits take over again. Hopefully that is when clients will choose to do some booster sessions to help manage the mental and emotional challenges again.
Something clients often say when they've completed their neurofeedback program: I still have problems I just worry a lot less about them.