What The Bleep Is Neurofeedback You Ask?

more insights into Neurofeedback, not just for robots!



I have been wanting…..okay attempting…..to write a post about the internship I was doing in neurotherapy. Specifically, a post that would explain what neurofeedback is and its use in treating brain disorders of any kind. The post would be easy to understand, comprehensive without being overwhelming, with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure. I was on draft number four of writing said post when a peer emailed me the article below and I thought, “Wow,this guy just took the words right out of my mouth…..and did it better than what I was imagining!” So, of course I have to share it with all of you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and that it spurs you on to learn more and share with others.



Neurofeedback: Alternative Health Care for Robots?


by John Anderson, M.A

Many people interested in…

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The Heart of Music


Thanks Aelana for this really interesting harp music therapy programme that looks at the relationship between the heart and music.

The site contains an interesting vimeo from the Institute of Heart Math about the heart and music.  Good information on using biofeedback to train heart rate variability, and induce relaxation and healing in the body.

When we lose consciousness or die, the hearing is one of the last senses to go.

Maybe this is why music is so sacred.

This also spreads light on why chanting is so healing.

When we chant or sing we are soothing our hearts! 🙂

Harping Heals

Harp playing relaxes, energizes, soothes, and heals the youngest of children and oldest of adults.

    • Releases emotional pain
    • Improves short-term memory and attention span
    • Increases social interaction
    • Builds self-esteem
    • Relieves stress




Neurological Rock Stars 5 – Richard J Davidson Getting to the Heart of Neuroplasticity

Essentially this is the story of Compassion, Monks and an FMRI Scanner.

The heart is seen as primary in relation to emotional regulation in Chinese Medicine. One of the obstacles faced by western science is understanding why this might be. I have written posts before on ‘Towards a spirit of Peace’ (1) which references a text on ‘Shen disorder’, and so I will not go into the more poetic and integrated body mind model from Chinese medicine here. Instead I will write about the work that is putting the ‘heart mind’ into a context that can be referenced and understood by western science and medicine.

Richard J Davidson is professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison as well as Founder and Chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center. (2)

I recently saw him talk about his work in ‘Transform your mind, Change your Brain – Google talk’ on youtube.(3)

In it he states “Epigenetics – referrers to the fact that genes are regulated by the environments in which they reside”

“The idea that our genetic structure provide an unalterable blueprint that effects our behaviour in an unalterable way is an antiquated, wrong- headed, Newtonian conception of genetics, it’s not the way things work.”

He emphasises that “the brain is the organ, which is built to change in response to experience more than any other organ in our body.”

Essentially what he is talking about is how behavioural and mental changes can produce more specific neurological changes than biological intervention, for example medication.

One of the books that changed my perspective on the brain was ‘The Plastic Mind – by Sharon Begley’(4).

This book talked about the results of studies involving the Dalai Lama and monks who were being studied under an MRI scanner by Richard J Davidson at the University of Wisconsin. During the scans they were meditating on compassion. The results showed what many Buddhist meditation practitioners already knew, Mediation changes your mind, crucially it showed that it was making neurological changes to the brain and proved neuroplasticity in meditation.

Richard J Davidson works at the cutting edge of Neuroplasticity. He also is also an expert in Affective Neuroscience (study of emotions).

During his talk he describes how when he and his team went to a monastery to explain to the monks what the process for recording data was, his team attached electrodes to the head of Fransisco Varela (5) who would perform the meditation. The response from the monks was that they started laughing. At first he thought it was because the electrodes looked silly on the head of Fransisco, but it emerged that it was because the electrodes were not placed around the heart. He said it took some years to get back to this.

During compassion meditation the Insula is one of the most active areas of the brain.

The Insula (anterior insula) houses a viscera topic map of the body (19min into google talk), visceral organs are mapped in the insula. This part of the brain has descending pathways to these organs and can modulate activity in those organs (there are also pathways to other parts of the brain). The Insula can modulate activity in the visceral organs. Meditation can also affect the amygdala and the TPJ or Temporal Parietal Junction which is associated with empathy.

Research like this into meditation is useful, for example, in understanding regulation of the vagus nerve because ‘many sensory signals conveyed by the vagus nerve terminate here’ – in the insula(6). In relation to the heart this will have big implications because of the relationship between the vagus nerve and heart.(7)

One of the problems with the idea of neuroplasticity is that it isn’t a mainstream idea yet.

Research like this begins to shed light onto the heart mind body brain relationship and forms a bridge in understanding the important relationship between meditation, emotional regulation and the heart and other organs of the body.

This research has far reaching implications not just for medicine but for education as well.(8)

1) https://epilepsymeandneurology.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/epilepsy-in-chinese-medicine-towards-a-spirit-of-peace/

2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Davidson

3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tRdDqXgsJ0 google talks




7) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21367742


really interesting advanced cognitive neuroscience and application of gaming, mobile technology etc. Really cutting edge brain training!

Psyche's Circuitry

I just attended the second annual Entertainment Software and Cognitive Neurotherapeutics Society (ESCoNS) conference. Say that five times fast.  This conference brought together people in the gaming world with cognitive neuroscientists. I went because I’m developing (and testing) an app that I believe can help people reduce stress, worry, and anxiety in their lives. In addition to more deeply exploring how to make mental health truly fun, I felt that I was seeing the future of mental health unfolding before my eyes.

Gamifying mental health

Here are four ideas I think will change how the field of mental health will look in a decade (or less):

1. Mental health care WILL BE gamified. The mobile revolution and app zeitgeist have changed how we get things done. We want an app for everything because we want our life mobile and streamlined, and the minute we think we want to do something, we want…

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Get Plugged Into Earth – Thanks Anne!


Thanks to my chi-gung  teacher for sending this link to aBBC radio barefoot walk and talk about the benefits of barefoot walking.

How to be more grounded with these steps :

Take of your shoes and socks, walk on the ground outside, OBSERVE how you feel when your feet are on the ground!

Simple, and free!

We live on a big round  Earth! 🙂

GREAT parkinson’s neuro recovery blog!

Kaitlyn Roland

This week kicked off brain awareness week… and the people over at sharpbrains.com debunked 10 myths around brain fitness… here are my 5 favourites!

Myth 1. Genes deter­mine the fate of our brains.

Fact: Life­long brain plas­tic­ity means that our lifestyles and behav­iors play a sig­nif­i­cant role in how our brains (and there­fore our minds) phys­i­cally evolve.

(we have some aspect of control and can create new neural pathways – say with exercise for brain change!)

Myth 3. Med­ica­tion is the main hope for cog­ni­tive health and enhance­ment.
Fact: Non-invasive inter­ven­tions can have com­pa­ra­ble and more durable ben­e­fits, and are also free of side effects.

(drug side effects are not necessary, but side effects – like endorphins – from exercise are encouraged!)

Myth 4. There’s noth­ing we can do to beat Alzheimer’s dis­ease and cog­ni­tive decline.
Fact: While noth­ing has been shown to pre­vent the pathol­ogy of Alzheimer ’s…

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And Now For Something a Little Bit Different … Epilepsy and the Electromagnetic Spectrum – What’s the frequency Kenneth?

This post started out as something else. I wanted to talk about my relationship with the electric light box and was looking for information on television and computers and epilepsy. BUT, like many of my searches this one turned into an EPIC surf.

Way back in the days when there was such a thing as black and white televisions, I had my first seizure in front of one. It was the first of many, but since then my relationship between TV, strip lights, computers, patterned carpets and mobile phones has been ‘complicated’.

One of my friends told me that her friend with epilepsy couldn’t put a mobile phone within 3 inches of her head without having a seizure. I am not quite that bad, BUT I always wanted to know why?

Photosensitive (1) epilepsy according to Epilepsy Action is experienced by about 3 in every 100 people with epilepsy. Most people with photosensitive epilepsy are sensitive to 16-25 Hz. Some people may be sensitive to rates as low as 3 Hz and as high as 60 Hz.’

For people with photosensitive epilepsy the number of times a computer screen or television ‘refreshes’ or flickers may case a seizure.

With the dawn of a digital age things have changed slightly (a lot!) since I had my first seizure and so liquid crystal screens have replaced the old cathode ray tubes in televisions that used to be such a bother to people with the wrong seizure threshold. This is obviously for the better in my case! (2) However the risk has not been completely removed because the newer screens are brighter and have more contrasting colors.

Is it me or does anybody else find the electric light box just a teensy, weensy bit hypnotic??

Obviously new technology has brought many benefits to the epileptic brain, for example MRI scanning, EEG, FMRI scanning, TMS, CAT scans and of course for anyone with broken bones there is the X-ray.

Now there is even have electric stuff they can attach to your head for seizures see Epilepsy Talk post (3)

Where would we be without the magnetic resonance image? And just what is an FMRI? Online research studies are so plentiful that you’d think in China FMRI is the new ‘digital camera’ of brain research, and everyone else is ditching Polaroid fast to follow not far behind. The American Military find photographing the brain with FMRI quite fascinating as well. Has to make you wonder –WHY? There are some quite interesting studies about ELF and the brain coming from China as well (4) and there are some detailed studies of radio-frequency and Electromagnetic fields online (5)

(6)Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging is described by wiki as;

‘The fMRI concept builds on the earlier MRI scanning technology and the discovery of properties of oxygen-rich blood. MRI brain scans use a strong, permanent, static magnetic field to align nuclei in the brain region being studied. Another magnetic field, the gradient field, is then applied to kick the nuclei to higher magnetization levels, with the effect depending on where they are located. When the gradient field is removed, the nuclei go slowly back to their original states, and the energy they emit is measured with a coil to recreate the positions of the nuclei. MRI thus provides a static structural view of brain matter. The central thrust behind fMRI was to extend MRI to capture functional changes in the brain caused by neuronal activity. Differences in magnetic properties between arterial (oxygen-rich) and venous (oxygen-poor) blood provided this link.[7]

So obviously for brain imaging this is a very useful piece of technology.

Then there is TMS or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. (7) TMS has some seriously interesting effects on the epileptic brain.

‘Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive method to cause depolarization or hyperpolarization in the neurons of the brain. TMS uses electromagnetic induction to induce weak electric currents using a rapidly changing magnetic field; this can cause activity in specific or general parts of the brain with minimal discomfort, allowing the functioning and interconnections of the brain to be studied. A variant of TMS, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), has been tested as a treatment tool for various neurological and psychiatric disorders including migraines, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, tinnitus, depression and auditory hallucinations.’

Could this explain why a mobile phone could cause a seizure? What are the risks of TMS?

‘Although TMS is often regarded as safe, the greatest acute risk of TMS is the rare occurrence of induced seizures and syncope.[4] More than 16 cases of TMS-related seizure have been reported in the literature, with at least seven reported before the publication of safety guidelines in 1998,[5] and more than nine reported afterwards. The seizures have been associated with single-pulse and rTMS. Reports have stated that in at least some cases, predisposing factors (medication, brain lesions or genetic susceptibility) may have contributed to the seizure. A review of nine seizures associated with rTMS that had been reported after 1998 stated that four seizures were within the safety parameters, four were outside of those parameters, and one had occurred in a healthy volunteer with no predisposing factors. A 2009 international consensus statement on TMS that contained this review concluded that based on the number of studies, subjects and patients involved with TMS research, the risk of seizure with rTMS is considered very low.[4]

Besides seizures, other risks include fainting, minor pains such as headache or local discomfort, minor cognitive changes and psychiatric symptoms (particularly a low risk of mania in depressed patients).[4] Though other side effects are thought to be possibly associated with TMS (alterations to the endocrine system, altered neurotransmitter and immune system activity) they are considered investigational and lacking substantive proof.[4]

All very interesting studies that relate to the use of electromagnetic technology and brain science.

So what other studies have been carried out?

Solar Power

Perhaps the most unusual studies I have read about are those carried out by scientists in Calcutta. (8)

Correlation between convulsive seizure and geomagnetic activity.

Rajaram M, Mitra S.


‘The annual percentage of patients with convulsive seizure in the Neurological Department of the Bangur Institute of Neurology, Calcutta, is found to be significantly correlated with the annual values of sunspot numbers and geomagnetic activity indices for the period 1955–1971. For a particular geomagnetic activity index the correlation coefficient is significant at a 99% confidence level. The study shows that a proper choice of elements in the series is important in studies undertaken to establish the biological effects of solar activity.’

One blogger has even explored his wife’s relationship with solar flares (9) and in February 2011 the epilepsy.com forum (10) became host to a really interesting conversation and debate about the effects of solar and geomagnetic stress on epilepsy. If you like me think that lunar events effect your seizures then check out the solar activity!

At Aaron’s reality blogspot (11) he writes the hypothesis on solar flares –‘With this compression of the earth’s magnetosphere pushes the electrical fields in the neural network from their neurons. This shuts down the brain. The body reacts by sending signals back to the medulla oblongata. This low level neural network is more robust. With every autonomic contraction the body is trying to send low level input data back to the brain. This slow recovery is necessary.’

I thought that a report on how vitamin D deficiency has been found to improve seizure control was interesting because of the vitamin D production in the skin when exposed to sunlight. (12)

This you tube video sums up nicely some of the unusual results of solar research and the brain. (see abouve).

In relation to geomagnetism one study appears to be making comparisons to human EEG measurement and earthquake measurement.

For me this begs the question; ‘During a seizure is your body having an earthquake?’ (13)(14)

Apparently scientists in Regional Epilepsy Centre, Department of Neurology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98104, USA, asked patients with epilepsy this very question in a survey following the earthquake in February 28, 2001 Nisqually. 23% of the epileptic patients volunteered that they initially thought they were having a seizure during the earthquake. (15)

The Epilepsy Therapy Project(16) recently reported on a study in Japan showing an increase in epileptic seizures in the 8 weeks following the tsunami in japan in 2011. The theory behind this is that higher stress triggered the increase in seizures. The study does not mention any increase in seizures on the day or in the days preceding the earthquake.

For me epilepsy is an ideal area to begin to look at the complex relationship we have with the electromagnetic spectrum, physics and biology or biophysics (17).

1) http://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/photosensitive-epilepsy

2) http://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/photosensitive-epilepsy/computer-television-screens

3) http://epilepsytalk.com/2013/03/04/predicting-seizures-7-amazing-new-breakthroughs-3/

4) http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0054376China Study

5) http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317133827077Health effects from radiofrequency electromagnetic fields full report – Report of the independent advisory group on non-ionising radiation 348 pages


7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcranial_magnetic_stimulation

8) ) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7254715 Correlation between convulsive seizure and geomagnetic activity.

Rajaram M, Mitra S.

9) )http://johndavidpowell.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/6-open-blog-friday-japan-earthquake-solar-flares-gas-boycott-and-more/

10) http://www.coping-with-epilepsy.com/forums/f23/seizures-solar-geomagnetic-activity-11768/

11) http://aaronsreality.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/certain-types-of-epilepsy-and-solar.html  solar flares

12) http://blog.vitamindcouncil.org/2012/04/18/correction-of-vitamin-d-deficiency-improves-seizure-control-in-epilepsy/

13) http://arxiv.org/pdf/1209.3803v1.pdf Earthquakes

14) Dynamical analogy between epileptic seizures and seismogenic electromagnetic emissions by means of nonextensive statistical mechanics

Authors:Konstantinos Eftaxias, George Minadakis, Stelios. M. Potirakis, George Balasis

(Submitted on 17 Sep 2012)

15)http://www.coping-with-epilepsy.com/forums/f23/seizures-solar-geomagnetic-activity-11768/index6.html  Earthquake and seizures

16) http://www.epilepsy.com/newsletter/feb13/japan_earthquake

17) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biophysics

Neurofeedback and Optimal Brain Function

Thank-you to http://ahmritanaturalmentalhealth.wordpress.com/ for this very interesting guest post. 🙂

Neurofeedback is a treatment which has evolved from Biofeedback. Many of you would have heard about this concept:

“…is a process that enables an individual to learn   how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and   performance. Precise instruments measure physiological activity such as   brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature.   These instruments rapidly and accurately ‘feed back’ information to the user.   The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes   in thinking, emotions, and behavior — supports desired physiological   changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an   instrument.” Three   professional biofeedback organizations, the Association   for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB), Biofeedback   Certification International Alliance (BCIA), and the International   Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR), arrived at a consensus   definition of biofeedback in 2008.Read more here


The concept of Biofeedback has been practised for time immemorial by Yoga and Pranayama students and masters. Here in the west it has developed to its current form since the late 50’s and was very popular in the 80’s. Since then it has sadly somewhat disappeared from the popular radar again, as do so many worthy and non invasive natural therapies. Mostly due to funding issues in the ever ongoing effort of pharmaceutical companies to suppress what would outshine their products.

But back to topic – Neurofeedback – “Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that uses electroencephalography or fMRI to provide a signal that can be used by a person to receive feedback about brain activity.”

Research so far has been working in particular to prove its worth as a treatment of epilepsy, autism, headaches, insomnia, addiction problems and more, but its benefits can be felt by anyone who has suffered an emotional trauma.


However, you do not need to be diagnosed with a medical condition to benefit from this treatment, as it is designed to optimize brain function.

Like many I became aware of the biofeedback movement in the late 80’s, but never did much with it. By chance a friend of mine gave me a rather large voucher for a bookstore in 2007. One of the titles I bought was:

“The Healing Power of Neurofeedback”, (2006), by Stephen Larsen Ph.D. Healing Arts Press.

Which humbly and quietly sat in my bookshelf for three years, until I was hunting for something new to read during semester break. What I found in this book had me totally spell bound, a treatment called LENS Technique, developed by Len Ochs.


After several hours of googling, I found a practitioner in Melbourne, who had recently migrated from Germany. I booked myself in for six treatments, which was explained to me as a usual course of treatment. Even though, the cost was not outrageous, I could instantly see, that it would be out of reach of exactly the majority of the population needing it – no medicare funding!

At the time stress levels in my life were approaching frantic on the stress meter, due to work, study and family commitments. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Well I was turning into a bit of a sleep deprived grouch 🙂

What I experienced even after the first treatment was sensational  (and lasting)– I became acutely aware of all the tension in my body; that I was holding a pen like a sword, my shoulders had taken up position at ear level and my breathing was shallow. By the time I got home after an hours city driving, I was in total and utter relaxation – of the ragdoll kind, but aware and alert, I felt fantastically at peace. I would recommend it to everyone!

Since, I found another practitioner of Neurofeedback – Dr. Shum, the Psychiatrist in Australia who has also helped develop Subconscious Freedom Technique


During LENS treatments you sit relaxed in a comfy chair, the practitioner connects several tiny electrodes and you can keep an eye on your heart and breathing rate on a screen. While treatment was going on I was watching a lot of David Attenborough nature documentaries, which I found helped the relaxation tremendously. At no point was there any discomfort or difficulty. The positive outcomes kept piling up, I was able to relax again, sleep better, manage my workload better and generally felt a fair bit more human friendly, which is a big plus when you work in Mental Health.

I would really like to encourage you to get the book, have a look at the websites and contact a practitioner in your area – no amount of me raving on about how greatly it helped me can substitute having your own experience.

Ahmrita’s blog is based at http://ahmritanaturalmentalhealth.wordpress.com/

for further information on nautral mental health many topics.