How it Works
We place sensors on the scalp and the ears that are connected to a device that amplifies the brain’s electrical communications (brain waves). At first we take measurements at different spots with eyes open, closed and while reading or doing a different task.
We know from decades of data how the brain should react in each of these conditions and in the different spots. We compare your brain with the research and it points to issues or difficulties that get in the way of the brain being the most efficient.
WHAT ARE BRAIN WAVES?
We all have brain waves that go from very slow waves (think deep sleep) to very fast waves (excited or scared) and everything in between (daydreaming, relaxed, focused, learning). They all have a job to do, the main places they reside (where we should find them the strongest), and an amount relative to one another. When any or all of these are “off” from what is normal for a person’s age then it typically points to problems. Our initial evaluation, which we call a baseline, gives us insight into what these problems might be.
Controlling Games with your Brain
We put those same sensors and ear clips on that we did for the baseline and you play a game with your brain. Weird but true! The games are different but all have the same purpose: when the brain waves are doing what we want them to do there is a “reward” on the game. You might hear a sound or get points or see something fun. This tells the brain “good job!” and the brain gives itself a shot of dopamine (a feel-good chemical).
DURING THIS PROCESS
During this process you are simply sitting still and relaxed while your brain is hard at work. The brain loves puzzles and challenges. It thrives on rewards and, during training it gets rewards when it meets the goals we’ve set. That means the more rewards it gets the more it is practicing being in a more regulated state. And with practice comes brain change. You may have heard the saying, “neurons that fire together wire together.” That means as the brain sends messages it creates pathways that become stronger over time– think Interstate versus tracks in a field.
But, I have questions!
HOW DO I MAKE THE GAME “GO”?
It can seem odd at first, because the brain and the mind are different. The brain is taking care of the things you don’t have to think about while the mind is what you are aware of, like your thoughts and feelings. This means you can’t make the game work by thinking a certain thought. Instead, the most helpful thing to do is stay relaxed while remaining focused and aware, basically getting out of your brain’s way.
What is the clinician’s role during NF?
Before each training we will review any changes, good or bad, that you experienced and make changes to our plan if needed. We can also decide to change something during the training if it is warranted. Being able to makes changes before and during training helps clients meet their goals sooner.
Sometimes during the training we will “coach” you, especially if we notice muscle tension, fatigue or lost focus. These are generally simple comments to help you relax or regain your focus.
Following training some people will go on to mind-body work or talk therapy with the remainder of their time while others choose to leave as soon as training is over.
How will I feel afterward?
You may feel tired, after all this is a workout! This side effect usually goes away quickly, often in a matter of minutes. Some people experience headaches, most typically when there is a head injury history.
Changes are noticed between 3-15 sessions. But getting to “done” can be anywhere from 20-100 sessions.
How quickly does it work?
The variation depends on age and complexity. Think of it as a continuum: on the shortest end is an adult who is very aware of themselves who has one main issue and on the farthest end is a child, quite unaware of themselves with complex, developmental issues.
Why the huge span?
That’s up to you. The brain generally only needs one rest cycle (overnight) between trainings unless there is a brain injury. So if your schedule allows training 2-3 days a week then change comes quicker. However, if you can only come once a week the brain will still make the changes, you just need to be patient with the process.
How often do I need to come?
The changes are subtle at first. Think dimmer switch not light switch. Changes will be gradual. Sleep is often the first thing that improves, even if that isn’t something we are working on.
In children especially, look for changes in duration, frequency, or intensity of behaviors. If they exploded in anger several times a week prior to training you might find they still explode but less frequently. Or you might notice that they still explode but it is done sooner or isn’t quite as intense. The changes will build on themselves over time, but knowing that it begins subtly helps you notice and spur the changes on.
In adults and more aware children/teens begin to notice improved focus, clearer thinking and a greater frustration tolerance.