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Neurofeedback is basically a branch off of the broader term “biofeedback”. Biofeedback allows people to gain more control over bodily functions that are normally involuntary, and biofeedback can treat conditions such as incontinence, high blood pressure and migraines. By promoting relaxation and deep breathing, biofeedback therapists help you fine-tune your control of various body functions.1 The same idea applies to neurofeedback, only now you’re focusing on your brain.
If you’ve never heard of a neurofeedback device (yet), you almost certainly will in the near future. Many companies offer some version of their own neurofeedback device, and it can be confusing to try to wade through all this information.
There are many methods used to help your brain function better, including:2
Neurofeedback can be used to treat conditions such as PTSD, headaches, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, bipolar disorder and depression. In a nutshell, electrodes are placed on your scalp to measure your brain’s electrical activity. Using games or other stimuli, you can learn how to redirect and adjust your focus if your mind starts to wander. Your brain will create new neural pathways because you’ve increased efficiency and learned a new way of functioning.3
If your first reaction is scepticism, that’s OK! Research studies have focused on neurofeedback devices and the results are promising. In one study, scientists asked 40 adult volunteers, who were recruited from the aboriginal populations of Canada, to participate in alpha brain-wave neurofeedback training.
These populations are affected by high depression rates (16% compared to 8% of the general population) and higher suicide rates (6-11 times the Canadian average). Aboriginal people have keenly felt the negative impacts of the loss of their indigenous culture and lifestyle.4
The volunteers underwent intensive training sessions ranging from 76 minutes a day to 120 or more each day for a 7-day period. Researchers were hoping to see what effects this therapy would have on reducing anxiety and other psychopathology. Using a battery of psychological tests, scientists did see improvements for many conditions, including depression, anxiety and social introversion.5
Another study tested Green Berets (the United States Army Special Forces) for 7 days. The Green Berets are akin to superstar athletes, as they are expected to perform at their best at all times. Baseline tests were completed before the training sessions, and then 2 groups of 12 soldiers (24 in all) were sent on a month-long “meditation encampment”, followed by a week of alpha brain training. Participants showed a significant reduction in sleepiness, dizziness and unhappiness, and increases in alpha brain activity were associated with reduced depression, defensiveness and fatigue.6
Seeing positive results from two very different populations is hopeful for the future. While most of us aren’t expected to perform at Green Beret level in our lives, we can improve how we lead others, how we interact with our family members and friends and other people around us if we are more relaxed, more aware, and less depressed or anxious.
Brain waves rule. When you change your brain waves, you change your experiences and you can actually change who you are.
Dr. James V Hardt
Neurofeedback is also called neurotherapy or sometimes EEG biofeedback. If you are interested in learning how to view your brainwave patterns and then use this information to modify or retrain your brain, you’re in luck! This technology is spreading across the globe, offering a new method of treatment for a variety of disorders.
There are several myths about neurofeedback7, including:
Effective leaders are able to utilise all their resources properly. Imagine what you could do if your brain was fully engaged and not distracted by ailments such as anxiety, PTSD, depression or sleep problems.
As leaders face more challenges in our rapidly changing world, conditions that inhibit how we think will become more prevalent. Facing these changes head-on and embracing new ways to keep our minds and bodies in top condition will be necessary. Learn more about how to retrain your brain and see what the experts have to say about brain health.
Check out my next article to learn more about brain health as we dive into the dark and lonely world of depression. Read on here!
1. Web MD. Overview of Biofeedback. WebMD LLC. 2019.
2. Stoler DR. Neurofeedback: One Method Does Not Fit All. Psychology Today. 2014.
3. Amen. Neurofeedback. Amen Clinics. 2019.
4. Khan S. Aboriginal Mental Health: The Statistical Reality. Reprinted from “Aboriginal People” issue of Visions Journal. 2008;5(1):6-7.
5. Hardt JV. Alpha Brain-wave Neurofeedback Training Reduces Psychopathology in a Cohort of Male and Female Canadian Aboriginals. Advances. 2012;26(2).
6. Hardt JV. The Ultimate Peak Performers: Alpha Feedback Training for US Army Green Berets. Biocybernaut Institute. 1998.
7. Neurocore Brain Performance Centers. 5 Neurofeedback Myths. Neurocore. 2018.
GM & Chief Creative Officer
About my Brain Institute
Relmi Damiano is the Co-Founder, GM & CCO of the About my Brain Institute. Founded in 2009 alongside leadership expert Silvia Damiano, the Institute’s vision is to democratise leadership & neuroscience by shaking up how we develop the human, the leader and the creative we all carry within.
In 2010, this dynamic mother and daughter team, produced the first “Brain Art Project” as a way to explore people's incipient interest in the brain. This was an international competition and exhibition that over the course of 2 years attracted over 1000 artists, scientists, designers, health practitioners and business leaders from all over the world who shared and expressed their different perspectives on neuroscience, creativity, mental health and wellbeing. The insights gained from this venture, highlighted the relevance of building a more holistic, design-driven and interdisciplinary approach to applying brain science to our daily lives.
With Relmi’s user-centered design, digital strategy and artistic expertise paired up with Silvia’s 20 years of experience in transforming leaders and cultures, they then released the i4 Neuroleader Model, Methodology & Assessment Suite, published the ‘Leadership Is Upside Down’ book and coined the term Brain-Friendly Cultures - all in 2013.
The purpose of their i4 Neuroleader Methodology is to transform current leadership practices and create the leaders of the future, leaders who are more conscious, ethical, compassionate, healthy, integrated, imaginative, intuitive and inspirational. Over the course of 4 years, as part of Vivid Sydney, Relmi & Silvia hosted the annual i4 Tales Conference & Design Exhibition, which attracted over 250 people each year to explore and discuss these topics in a community environment.
Since its inception, the About my Brain Institute has certified more than 800 practitioners globally in the i4 Neuroleader Methodology, ran numerous events and retreats as well as delivered brain-friendly programs in organisations globally.
One of their most remarkable projects was the ‘Make Me A Leader’ film, released in 2018. They self-funded and produced a multiple award-winning documentary that gathered highly regarded experts, professors and scientists who shared the secrets of how leaders can optimise brain and body performance to thrive in the 21st Century.
Relmi has also been a sessional Lecturer and Tutor at Sydney University and Billy Blue College of Design in design thinking, service design, human-centered design, user experience, entrepreneurship, business model generation, branding, communication design, innovation and strategy. She also mentored and created a wide range of student design briefs for live industry projects for film, exhibition design, data visualisation, 3D/2D animation, gaming, digital art and web based projects.