Neurofeedback experimentation without a clinician…

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.

12 thoughts on “Neurofeedback experimentation without a clinician…

  1. If there are any of you out there willing to do experimentation on yourself. There is a project called OpenEEG. It has schematics and custom made PCB boards to assist you in building your own EEG machine. I myself purchased my 2 channel boards about 4 months ago. Havn’t had time to build the system yet, but hopefully this summer I’ll have enough free time to build. Oh ya this whole system shouldn’t cost you anymore than $300.

    My interests for building this are to observe my REM sleep (I’m a lucid dreamer) and other parts of my consciousness. I’d also like to get into some Alpha training.

  2. mklebel, I’ve actually ran across the openEEG project before… though my only problem with it is the fact that you can spend just $300 more and get a system that’s guaranteed to work with decent software. I guess it just depends on whether you’re a hardcore do-it-yourself’er thats confident you can pull it off. :-)

    Definitely stick around though, mklebel… I plan on putting up a forum sometime this week for us experimenters to get together and talk. My experiences with alpha training I’ve recently realized have been nothing less than phenominal. I believe I’ve also recognized a huge correlation between my neurofeedback picking up speed and some kind of extremely powerful synnergistic effect with the heavy omega 3 dosing I’ve been doing (2-4g/day of EPA for the last month or so).

  3. Something to note… I’ve noticed that since I’ve been doing alpha training, in the mornings when I hit the snooze button I tend to have very vivid dreams in between the alarm clock going off. I also think my visualization abilities have been improved… so your lucid dreaming pursuits may very well be improved from alpha training.

  4. This is fascinating, Daniel, but you do not make it sound easy. Beta, theta, BATs, eek!

    I guess reading the book you suggest would help. I did read “Symphony in the Brain,” which tells the story of the beginnings of neurofeedback, and evidently it was developed by non-professionals. I also remember reading that practitioners often will use the “oops, a little less of that” method.

    This is inspiring to me. I’ve thought about getting myself a machine, but thought I’d have to go through some sort of training program.

    I’d like better access to my right brain for creativity — along with better sleep, less stress and anxiety, more energy, clearer thinking — and it sounds like this might help.

  5. Susan,
    Truthfully a lot of what I talked about with the BAT triad and all sounds more complicated than it is. The book I read I never even read completely… I just skimmed it and used the index a lot. But like I said, I’ve found for most of my intents and purposes BY FAR training with alpha/theta training and alpha synchrony training has been enough.

    Yeah, as you can see… even practicioners have a habit of just “trying things out”… A lot of it is trial and error, and knowing what you’re doing.

    Interesting to note though… that stress, anxiety, etc. often comes from EXCESSIVE activity in the right hemisphere and too little activity in the left hemisphere! This would be a case of a left-right alpha reversal (too little alpha on the right, and too much on the left). Though I’ve definitely found that doing alpha training and alpha synchrony training has definitely helped my creativity. There’s also some semi-spiritual things that I’ve begun to question lately… and believe me, I’m not a loopey overly spiritualistic kind of person.

    If you use any instant messengers drop me an email at webmaster (AT) and we can talk some more about this. I know of some sites that might be of interest to you.

  6. Pingback: NeuroInterests » Blog Archive » Neurofeedback: The Mechanics of It

  7. Have you heard of The Healing Codes? It induces an alpha state and accesses the sub-concious , in order to heal the cell memories that were percieved wrongly and consequently we believed a lie. This causes us to have stress about our present life, but using the codes can change the original belief and the way you write about what you are doing and how it is affecting you makes me think of the Codes even though its not exzactly the same.

  8. Nope, haven’t heard of it. Only thing so far I’ve heard of that induces an alpha state other than drugs is Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation unites (i.e. the alpha-stim). Not sure what all you’re talking about as far as believing lies… I do know that hypnotists are advised to be careful about giving people false memories through suggestion, because when people are in alpha/theta states they are easily open to suggestion.

  9. Howdy Neurofreak, if you don’t mind sharing where did you purchase your eeg system with the software?

    I’ve going to regular eeg sessions and I was curious about the applications of neurofeedback to Autism.

  10. There’s a few different ones out there, Sage. Do a google for “MindPeak.” That brand has been around for a while.

  11. Hello again, I found Mindpeak. I was curious what software you would recommend getting-i’m looking at subdelta training 0.5 to 2.5 hertz. There is bioexplorer, smartmind2 and captain log brain games.

  12. The ‘leading’ expert on alpha synchrony training, Les Fehmi, actually recommends training synchrony one session up and than one session down. He claims that this trains the brain to be more flexible. My take is that when overtraining alpha synchrony he found out , like I did, that there are side-effects, consequences if one trains liked 100-200 hours of alpha synchrony up.
    There are also no inhibits in this protocol so you never know what else is being trained up when training for longer periods.
    The Peniston protocol , the trial that most claims for alpha/theta are based on, also includes other procedures aside from just neurofeedback: talk therapie, relaxation exercises and guidance from trained professionals. Most alpha/theta only trials, don’t show that much about handling alcoholism, depression or anything for that. Also this idea of a point where theta exceeds alpha, the subconscious overtakes the conscious is a very nice hypothesis, but there’s really not any basis for this…
    Why self-NFB? The mind finds the real problem, itself, so now it needs to get rid of itself, in comes NFB, the mind trying to change the mind, any spiritual practice can tell you that this is never going to work…

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