A new reader, Susan, who writes about Oxytocin on her blog Hug The Monkey, asked me whether I had any training before I started doing neurofeedback myself, how I knew which frequencies to train, and whether I found myself ever drifting toward negative effects.
To get started… Whether I have any training. The answer is no. I’ve read a very well-known book for neurofeedback practice called “Getting Started with Neurofeedback” by John Demos. It’s an absolutely fabulous book, and even gives its thoughts and tips on starting a neurofeedback practice (so it’s safe to assume the book is probably intended for clinicians). I was also a little bit familiar with the workings of different brainwave frequencies from digging around on transparentcorp’s brainwave entrainment forums.
The truth is, though, that some of the most effective uses for neurofeedback are virtually side-effect free from my understanding. These are the same ones that have been found useful for treating alcoholism, anxiety, stress, etc… And that is alpha/theta training and alpha synchrony training. I’ve even read some reports of alpha synchrony training being effective for treating dyslexia, and alpha/theta training for being effective in treating OCD (which I have a small amount of, I believe), as well as alcoholism, anxiety, depression, and the rest.
Essentially, using alpha training and alpha synchrony training, if done right, really isn’t going to be particularily dangerous. Outside of that, I haven’t done a lot of exploration. I’ve done beta/smr training a bit to treat insomnia and to help focus… but I think I was getting just as good of benefits from simply toying with alpha.
The most important thing, I believe, is probably paying attention to what is called the “BAT” triad. Essentially the left hemisphere should have more beta activity (and thus lower alpha activity), and the right hemisphere should have more alpha activity (and thus lower beta activity), and theta should be roughly equivalent. If there is a reversal in any way then anxiety/depression is likely to be accompanied with it. So if I am experiencing a reversal, I’ll simply train alpha in the way that I believe will most alter the reversal. I.e. train alpha only on the right side… this will likely drag the left hemispheres alpha up at times as well, but not as much. So I’m killing two birds with one stone: learning to access the twilight states while correcting a reversal as well. There can also be a front/back reversal. The back of the head should generally have more alpha than the front… so as long as I’m training alpha towards the back in the parietal and occipital regions, I’m also reducing any reversal that may occur in that way as well. So basically, if you’re doing alpha/theta training you can do the back and on the right hand side and be mostly quite safe. While as, because alpha synchrony training requires two channels you can easily see what’s going on at each site and be able to adjust the protocol accordingly. I tend to change my protocol pretty regularily for the sake of experimentation and flexibility.
As far as negative effects, when I first started alpha training I actually had a euphoric buzz for the first two days that was similar to the effects of marijuana. I felt slowed down, but euphoric. Since then this effect seems to have subsided some, and I’m not entirely sure what caused it. I also at one point did SMR training without the accompanied left hemisphere beta training… I believe this may have caused a slight disruption in the BAT triad which left me feeling a little depressed, but then again that is in part why beta is usually trained in the left hemisphere while SMR is trained in the right… to prevent that kind of thing from happening.
None of this should be taken as medical advice, but if you are a person looking for some kind of training of neurofeedback training and don’t mind experimenting… I recommend you buy a neurofeedback unit. They range from $600 to $1,800 for a decent one. While that may sound like a lot, most sessions from a clinician can cost $100-200 per session… While if you own your own machine you can get literally hundreds or thousands of sessions by yourself. Just make sure you stay smart and stick with the moderately safe protocols (stick with alpha, baby! you can’t go wrong). Most people get tremendous results in 20-40 sessions, so what will thousands do? I want to learn to control my mind in the most effective way possible — without control of my own mind I am little more than an animal running on autopilot.