My journey started 16 years ago when I began to research the neurofeedback (NF) field. Given my training and experience, I felt that NF could possibly be a non-invasive modality that could reduce protective mechanisms that slow or prevent trauma resolution. What I discovered over the past decade of using NF with my clients is that it improves overall resilience, no matter the symptom. Surprisingly, resilience improves even with the more intense cases and generally stabilizes folks more rapidly than I could have anticipated. This led me into deeper study of the science behind these results.
Dr. Barry Sterman’s work with monkeys and cats for NASA in the 1960’s is most impressive. He was essentially able to reduce or stop seizure activity with neurofeedback. From here, the field went in many different directions. I recommend you read Jim Robbins “Wired for Miracles” article for more good overview information on the traditional neurofeedback field. “Wired for Miracles” article link. Also his book “Symphony of the brain“.
Six plus decades forward, the NF field has matured, having developed around the allopathic or medical model, a protocol driven process, based on QEEG (brain mapping) for the most part, and what is called the migrate and entrain approach. A practitioner using traditional NF with years of experience can be of great assistance to their client with problems such as PTSD, anxiety, sleep disorders, ADHD, and many others. There are good clinicians in Boulder and surrounding area that I have referred to when clients request the brain mapping approach, as they often call it. I refer to it as the traditional NF approach, which depends on side effects as part of the protocol process.
I was never attracted to this approach personally or professionally. Having worked with trauma clients since the mid-1980s, I knew first hand that there is a good percentage of those clients who will disimprove with any protocol that pushes and pulls change toward the ‘norm’. This is well known now in the field by seasoned clinicians. I have personally spoken with traditional neurofeedback practitioners who have shared such stories with me.
When I met Drs. Valdeane and Susan Cheshire-Brown, both neuropsychologists with a long history in the neurofeedback and biofeedback field, I discovered that there was another way to provide feedback to the CNS. This choice was non-invasive, didn’t depend on side effects or protocols nor require years of experience for the practitioner and used another physics paradigm. I myself have trained in non-linear, biologically-based trauma resolution approaches since 1979. My training demonstrated to me that the CNS was capable of healing or advancing itself. This required knowing how to communicate and reflect back to it its ongoing activity, in its own language. My experience and preference tells me we don’t need to tell it what we think it needs. Especially if that notion is based on a picture in the past.
Dr. Valdeane Brown has owned, operated, was certified and taught virtually every piece of NF equipment available today. Additionally, his work has added another dimension to the NF field. From what I have found, he is the most math driven professional in this field, and neurofeedback is all about the math.
His organization, Zengar Institute of Canada, developed the NF system called NeurOptimal®. It utilizes a distinct physics paradigm. This paradigm is based on these concepts:
- Encouraging healthy chaos
- Evoking the inherent biological survival capabilities of the CNS
- The CNS is primarily an energy conserving system
- The CNS’s ability to learn and adapt (re-normalize in non-linear physics terms) is inherent and instinctive, and needs no cognitive participation on the part of the client.
- Mirroring back to the brain when it is generating *perturbation
(*non-linear physics term; an energetic event that signals that the CNS is about to generate a phase shift, or also called state change in non-linear physics)
- Evoking the Orienting Response returns the CNS to the present moment and encourages Hippocampal dominance (peripheral awareness or relaxation)
- The CNS is holographic (see Dr. Karl Pribrams work on the Holonomic Brain) and thus a distributed system. “Working locally” from the non-linear POV is not actually possible (called site specific or hyper-localized treatment)
Frankly, to compare traditional NF to NeurOptimal® is a little like comparing binary computing to quantum computing.
NeurOptimal is training, not treatment. It is brain training and grandfathered in by the FDA as relaxation training which anyone can do. So traditional neurofeedback and NeurOptimal each have their unique functions and characteristics, but are two different scientific paradigms and entirely different in their theoretical underpinnings and approach. NeurOptimal monitors the entire brainwave spectrum simultaneously, moment to moment. Traditional NF targets specific frequencies within the spectrum and can throw out 96% of the signal due to the processing approach it utilizes (the difference between Shannon and Gabor processing).
Each approach is unique unto itself and each can be very effective, but are particular in their way of working. The Traditional NF demands a clinician with years of experience because they have to use the side effects to discover the thresholds or parameters within which to work for each client. Entrain and migrate is pushing and pulling the brain toward a pre-determined goal or norm.
NeurOptimal requires no such experience on the part of the clinician, because the genius is in the software which simply mirrors back to the brain its own energy expenditure (micro-volts); no more and no less. It reflects back to the brain what is just did. It is the perturbation event that evokes the Orienting Response, which then returns the CNS back to the present moment. It takes lots of energy to sustain suffering and the CNS is an energy conserving system and can learn from itself.
In Traditional NF, the clinician is the operator. I remember when I began using NeurOptimal having to generate the feedback. When Dr. Brown added auto navigation (AutoNav) to NeurOptimal, the modern computer, with its incredible capability, now does that function. In my personal and professional experience, my NeurOptimal unit is a much more precise and responsive operator than I could ever be. This is why I can confidently use it in my private practice.
My knowledge of the CNS required that non-aggressivity or non-interference in the organism’s insitinctual biological process was to be my first criteria, from the very beginning of my research. Furthermore, NeurOptimal does not arouse side effects because it never pushes and only provides information. It is not operant conditioning.
This is why so many therapists and coaches are drawn to NeurOptimal. It is effective, affordable, the Zengar Institute offers wonderful customer service and support and the work can be done by non-licensed trainers. It does not require one to be an expert to help those who are suffering and never pushes their process. It is diagnostically agnostic as Dr. Brown says. It simply provides information which the CNS uses or not, based on its inherent intelligence. Better said, the brain’s instinct to adapt is in the driver’s seat.
I am happy to speak with anyone and share what I know. I am passionate about reducing suffering non-invasively and doing it in a training, non-medical way.
David Delaney, MA, CAR, LPC has been working in private clinical practice since 1985 in the area of trauma resolution and is an international Representative for Zengar Institute, Inc. and NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback Brain Training Systems.