ARTICLES - Electroencephalography (EEG)
 
Electromyography (EMG)
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Electroencephalography (EEG)
   EEG Neurofeedback
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Women's Health

EEG Neurofeedback

Valdeane W Brown, Ph.D.

You have lectured extensively on, and have incorporated into your clinical practice, the ProComp+ BioGraph system. What do you like about it?

There are many reasons why we like the system. The first is that we can use it to train two channels of EEG simultaneously, along with up to six other channels of traditional modalities, if you want, such as EMS, BVP, TEMP, EDR, and Respiratory Waveform. Because of our approach to providing clinical neurofeedback, we don't actually use the traditional modalities any more; we simply don't find them to be necessary to achieve robust clinical transformation. We also like BioGraph because it is a true Windows based software package that actually integrates the range of multimedia capabilities of today's personal computers. The most important reason for use, however, is that BioGraph is currently the only system that allows us to watch a real-time, bilateral spectral display of the two channels of EEG while actively training our clients.

Why is a bilateral spectral display important for EEG Biofeedback?

In EEG Biofeedback, or Neurofeedback as we call it, it is very important to be able to track the moment-to-moment changes in EEG across the entire range of electrical activity that is continuously occurring. Having this kind of display allows us to make nuanced shifts in target frequency and threshold throughout training. Without this kind of display, it is very difficult to really observe the important markers of dysfunction in the EEG. Instead of having to infer the impact of our neurofeedback training, we can see it, in real-time as the training effects are occurring. Moreover, clients can easily understand some of the basic patterns that appear in the frequency mirror This gives them a readily accessible means of assessing their own progress. Recognizing that regional elevations have decreased, or that other anomalies have.shifted, can be very empowering for clients. They see the changes in their EEG signatures and understand that the changes they experience in their sense of self are directly connected to the visible shifts in the frequency mirror. It is very easy to validate the training.

Why is it so important to train two channels simultaneously?

Most other equipment can only train one channel at a time. That has led to the development of protocols that involve frequent shifting of site and or target frequency depending on the condition being treated. All of these shifts take time. With ProComp+/ BioGraph we can simultaneously train different frequency ranges without shifting sensors or moving sites. If you are used to doing SMR on the right side, followed by Beta on the left side,

you can now train both hemispheres at the same time - even using different target frequencies! Not only does it save time, but there is a synergistic effect with the combined training. We can achieve considerably faster, more profound, and more robust results with greater ease and simplicity. The brain performs trillions of calculations moment to moment as

it navigates, calibrates and processes the enormous amount of information presented to it; and it does all this work while you continue to walk, talk, and orient yourself to your surroundings. In short, the brain is massively parallel in how it works and we can use this capacity to increase clinical efficacy.

Are you saying that you train the CNS to do two different things at the same time?

Yes, and it works beautifully. The CNS is wonderfully designed to process these astronomical bits of information simultaneously in real time. It keeps track of immune system functioning,

liver functioning, blood pressure, heart rate, breath rate. It also tracks external perceptual cues, integrates sounds into three dimensional panoramas (so you can locate the source of the sounds), keeps you upright and moving - and it does all of this without your conscious involvement. We have neglected to use this incredible computational complexity in our

past approaches to neurofeedback. Two-channel training allows us to simultaneously increase both the resilience and flexibility of the CNS. We use multiple bandpass filters to separate frequencies that we want to reduce from those that we want to increase; the CNS can discriminate effectively amongst this complex array of feedback. The brain can tell when it is on track, and when it isn't. The process occurs with little effort or conscious awareness on the part of the client. In fact, the more clients try to "figure it out or "try to make the tones come on", the more they produce the very brainwaves that prevent them from really paying attention or relaxing. The idea that it is important to increase conscious awareness of the training process is a hold over from the older paradigms that have been used for traditional biofeedback.

You seem to be saying that there is a difference between neurofeedback and biofeedback. If so, what is that difference?

On the cite hand neurofeedback is simply one form of biofeedback because, in its most general sense, biofeedback involves monitoring and feeding back information about a client's psychophysiological state. Traditional biofeedback uses peripheral based measures like EDR, TEMP, EMG, BVP and Respiratory Waveform to monitor and feed back information about the status of these peripheral measures of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity. Clients are trained to become familiar with eliciting these states, which they must consciously remember to do in their day to day lives.

Neurofeedback, on the other hand, monitors and feeds back information about the electrical activity in the central nervous system (CNS), which is at the center of virtually every self-regulatory loop and process in humans. The central nervous system is called the central system because it is quite literally at the core of all other processes. Monitoring and feeding back information about CNS status results in faster and more robust changes because you are influencing the client's psychophysiology at its core. The effects from training the central nervous system proliferate outwards on their own, whereas peripheral training may or may not generalize its effect, and takes a long time to influence the more central processes. For instance, many clinicians have used temperature feedback to alleviate migraines. Training the client to increase their peripheral temperature as measured at the fingertip, foot and/or stomach, leads to a decrease in the duration, intensity and frequency of migraines in many clients. However, it is not easy for most clients to learn this skill, and they must continue to practice the skill outside of your office, or else the training effect is likely to fade away over time. When this happens, migraines can begin to re-emerge. Additionally, there is no clear connection between changes in peripheral temperatures and other, more central changes in the brain, which is where migraines occur. Neurofeedback, on the other hand, directly trains the functioning of the CNS, which is where migraines occur, and the training effect maintains and proliferates without borne training, or conscious practice on the part of the client. The brain receives the information it needs to re-establish its intrinsic healthy chaos, and so does not create migraines.

In particular, we have found that training to decrease amplitude in the range of 3-5 Hz and 23-38 Hz bilaterally while simultaneously increasing amplitude at 14 Hz on the right side and 15-18 Hz on the left side, virtually eliminates migraines. In other words, to experience a migraine the CNS must produce elevated amplitude levels in the 3-5 Hz and 23-38 Hz ranges bilaterally with relatively decreased amplitude levels at 14 Hz on the right and 15-18 Hz on the left.

What about using ProComp+/ BioGraph for traditional modalities?

With its eight-channel capability, we believe it is unmatched in its ability to provide useful psychophysiological information to both the client and the clinician. If a clinician were working with pelvic floor disorders, for instance, neurofeedback and surface EMG can be a wonderfully effective combination. With pain management, surface EMG may be usefully integrated to address neuromuscular reintegration, range of motion limitation, or various musculoskeletal imbalances that contribute to the pain.

With two channels of EEG being monitored in several bandwidths you must be giving a wide range of audio and visual feedback to clients. Isn't that too much information for a client to attend to?

Actually no - the CNS can process and integrate enormous amounts of information, especially when conscious processing is relegated to its more useful, back seat role. Clients don't see all of the information that a clinician does - they simply hear tones and see images move on the screen. They don't see bargraphs, linegraphs, meters or other numberbased forms of feedback. In that sense, neurofeedback is done in a very different way from traditional biofeedback approaches that use seemingly more "quantified" data. Clients don't need to know that their average amplitude level is 5 uV, or whatever, in the beta range. Instead they need to know that they are concentrating more effectively, or relaxing more profoundly. The rich set of tones that we provide clearly demonstrates those shifts in a way that holds enormous validity for clients. We use BioGraph in a twomonitor mode, where the client sees one monitor, while the clinician watches a different monitor. On the clinician's monitor there are a variety of bargraphs that present information on each aspect of the EEG that we are specifically feeding back to the client, whereas the client sees only a single animation. The animation might be a little man with a wheelbarrow collecting gold coins: the more the client stays in range, the more coins are collected and the higher the score. It is very easy for the client to respond to this kind of visual feedback because its meaning is so intuitively obvious.

What type of audio feedback do you use?

With ProComp+/BioGraph we have an almost unlimited palette of audio feedback available, including the sounds of instruments, voices, songs, synthesized sounds - you can even play CDs. If you can hear it, you can use it because the sound can be recorded and played back by BioGraph. It's incredible just how flexible and rich the sounds can be. We give the client a separate sound for each of our three inhibits, along with a separate tone for each of our two augments and music in the background to heighten the milieu that we want for the client. In our alpha-theta screens the client listens to the sounds of the ocean while they hear various harmonically related sounds that wax and wane as their alpha amplitudes increase bilaterally. In addition, when they have an alphatheta crossover, they hear a single delicate chime - this helps them remember any powerful images and insights that occur as well as providing real-time feedback of the state.

Alpha-theta crossovers, what are they?

The crossover experience has been a part of human consciousness since the dawn of civilization. Every culture has some preferred path for attaining these awe-inspiring moments of insight, creativity, and personal transformation. The crossover experience gained clinical importance when it was demonstrated that substance abuse decreased after clients had extended encounters with it. We train substance abusers, those suffering from PTSD immune suppression, MPD and a variety of other disorders with this technology and their lives transform. The real marvel of this area is that the change process can happen with so little direct input from the clinician. When the neurofeedback is done correctly, clients come up with their own interpretations, they perform their own naturalistic exposures, and they release dysfunctional cognitive and emotional patterns without struggle, and without having to do the kind of

in-depth psychotherapy required in other approaches.

You described several of your "screens" but what exactly is a screen?

ProComp+/BioGraph is a comprehensive, multimedia, multichannel biofeedback and applied psychophysiological system. It can be used for either treatment or research and although it comes with a wide variety of screens, it can be customized by building screens. We have developed a number of screens using our Period 3 Approach to functional CNS Transformation. This approach is based on non-linear dynamical control procedures, and the screens we have created enable other clinicians to use it in the same way that we do.

What do you mean by describing your approach as "non-linear"?

A non-linear approach is based upon the insights and ideas found in the rapidly evolving field of chaos mathematics. This fascinating, multidisciplinary field has been applied to an incredible range of problems with great success, including meteorology, economics and biology, to name just a few. Non-linear systems may seem complex, however, they can be described in very simple equations and this simplicity is what makes the approach attractive. Systems that appear to be random, uncontrollable, and unpredictable can be understood to demonstrate a simple, underlying, information-rich organization. Frorn this perspective we can understand how an enormous range of disorders can respond clinically to a single, comprehensive approach. Let's see if an example can help clarify the difference between a linear and non-linear approach.

Traditional biofeedback typically is based on a linear methodology. A problem is discerned (perhaps peripheral temperature is too low, so the client is susceptible to migraines); an intervention is devised (peripheral training of temperature to achieve 95.5 degrees) and the client receives feedback as that goal is successively realized (e.g., as temperature increases, the pitch of an audio tone decreases). The client, thereby, moves in a step-by-step fashion towards the goal.

A non-linear approach, on the other hand, recognizes that there is no singular, optimal value for physiological status, rather, there is a range of variability around which the psychophysiological system operates. Dysfunction is viewed as a restriction in the range of that normal, healthy or chaotic variability. In its extreme form, the client's psychophysiology is attracted to a particular state that allows the clinical disorder to emerge. For example, clients who obsess have a lot of energy in the 23-38 Hz range; you can not experience obsessive thinking without elevations in that, bandwidth. However, there is no particular optimal value in that range. Most of us can slip into obsessive thinking at times, but we are flexible and resilient enough to "let go" of those thoughts without getting caught up in them - the 23-38 Hz range is not an attractor for us. And we do that with no conscious awareness of exactly how we do it. For obsessive clients, however, 23-38 Hz is a powerful attractor, and once they surge up to a high amplitude level they remain at that level. And, the more they try to use a conscious strategy to facilitate their return to normal (chaotic variability in that range) the more they get in their own way and support the elevation by obsessing about how well they are doing at no longer obsessing. They are not resilient; they are easily led into obsessions. And they are not flexible; once they start obsessing they cannot let themselves, nor help themselves to stop. Our nonlinear, dynamical approach recognizes this and gives systemic, dense and rich feedback that guides the entire spectrum back to its intrinsic pattern of healthy chaos. We are doing fitness training for the brain so that, it can recapture its natural resilience and flexibility. Once it does this, symptoms disappear.

This sounds like neurofeedback could be useful for a variety of conditions - is that true?

Yes, we use it for a wide range of disorders as well as spiritual transformation among many other applications. In fact, many of our clients are very healthy and are more interested in personal transformation and expanding their sense of what life can be, than in resolving old psychological wounds, restoring the function of the immune system, or other kinds of symptom relief.

What has limited the application of neurofeedback to these disorders in the past?

The biggest problems have been conceptual and political. Many practitioners simply have been unable to comprehend the kind of transformative potential available through neurofeedback, whereas others have been terrified of that potential. Using neurofeedback effectively involves a paradigm shift for most practitioners. In addition, it is important to have personal experience with the equipment: you can not help others to re-establish healthy, self-regulation unless you can demonstrate and integrate those abilities in your own life. One of the other biggest issues concerned limitations of the equipment. BioGraph is the first system that is capable of providing real-time, bilateral direct digital filtering of EEG as well as simultaneous Fourier-based transforms of signals using 256 samples per second within a true Windows interface. We now can actually process and feedback EEG based signals with enough complexity and subtlety to achieve profound, reproducible clinical results.

But the real issue has concerned the paradigm of the practitioner. Neurofeedback is both too simple and too profound in its implications for many clinicians to be comfortable with it. The idea that trauma can be resolved without having to feel and process the original trauma event is, for example, a very challenging concept for many clinicians. If you have been taught that "you must feel it to heal if' that idea will seem preposterous and absurd at best. And yet, the simple truth is that, frequently to "feel the pain deeply" is the best way to keep a client traumatized and in need of further treatment. Neurofeedback can be effective across an enormous range of clinical conditions - this also surprises and concerns clinicians as we are taught to believe that there are discrete disorders requiring separate and discrete treatments. Neurofeedback challenges that dominant paradigm, especially when done according to our Period 3 Approach. We use a single, comprehensive approach to all clients that is particularized momentto-moment by emergent conditions in the client's real-time EEG. All we do is give information to our clients, and all they have to do is watch their lives transform!

Zengar Institute is a private psychological service organization, located in Port Jefferson, NY. Founded by Susan Brown, Ph.D. and Valdeane W. Brown Ph.D., Zengar is dedicated to helping individuals transform pain into awareness, and suffering into liberation. We integrate the cutting edge technology of Neurofeedback with ancient techniques from the wisdom and spiritual traditions to promote rapid and long-lasting transformation.

The Zengar Institute offers extended, personalized training for practitioners who want to release symptoms, overcome limitation, and explore the deepest levels of their consciousness. We also offer comprehensive consultation and training in Neurofeedback for practitioners wanting to learn how to use this exciting breakthrough approach.

For further information about our services, or to arrange a consultation, contact us by voice or fax at (516) 473-7317, via e-mail at weare@zengar.com or by writing to us at Zengar Institute Rhythms for Living, 121 Prospect Street, Port Jefferson, AT 11777.

 

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