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
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
What about using ProComp+/ BioGraph for traditional
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
What do you mean by describing your approach
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to us at
Zengar Institute Rhythms for Living, 121 Prospect Street, Port Jefferson,
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