Product Review: NeurOptimal Neurofeedback made by Zengar

Product Review:

Zengar’s neurofeedback system called NeurOptimal has been on the market for the past several years.  At Cognitive Connections we use it as we prepare the body’s system to be functionally calm while reinforcing the mental state of focused and alert.  Most individuals use this this as a standalone process to create a homeostasis within the CNS (Central Nervous System).

I have been a Neurofeedback practitioner for 26 years.  Beginning with systems within our field that promote that the practitioner set up and define the amount of ‘feedback’ an individual was going to get during their therapy depending on their diagnosis.  This required us to set the software program and thresholds for the individual to attain their goals.  These instruments leave a great deal of responsibility and authority to the therapist.  Sadly, many times the therapist went to a weekend course before they put up a shingle stating they were a Professional in Neurofeedback.

Let’s look at how Neurofeedback traditionally works:  a computer runs a software program that indicates how much strength (microvolts) of a signal or cortical activity (electro-magnetic information) that individual is displaying.  Some Neurofeedback technicians believe that depending on where these little sensors are placed on the head they can directly influence the ‘brain-wave’ activity directly below that sensor.  After working with a group of Neurologists in Indiana, I have come to understand that this little electrode is only reading a ‘summation’ of all the cortical activity that is being generated in the brain so the changes that occur with Neurofeedback is global, through-out the brain.  Due to this concept it also stands to reason the brain being dynamic is always changing and it would be impossible to change one very small area of activity without it affecting the rest of the brain.  It would be the same as if you went to the gym to work out and decided to only work your left bicep, no matter what exercise you did to increase muscle mass in the left bicep it would also affect the surrounding muscles (and make you look funny).

So, in the traditional model we measure the amount of microvolts (strength) of electromagnetic activity and the practitioner then sets up ‘thresholds’ or boundaries to ‘inhibit’ and ‘augment’ specific frequency levels dependent upon what they call a qEEG.  The q’ is a 24 channel unit that takes a picture of the cortical activity under different brain circumstances and then produces a standard protocol driven on that 12-15 minutes of recorded activity.  The individual is usually asked to sit still with eyes open then eyes closed, and asked to do a task under pressure such as counting backwards from 335 by 7’s.   This measurement is recorded and depending on what the tech sees that day the next several months of brain training is focused on that static moment.  The cons to this program from my perspective are that our brain is not static, and the individual’s cortical activity in that moment is probably not indicative of what they are like when they are not in a stranger’s office being pasted up with wires and fearful of what the results may say.  The Pro’s are they are a pretty picture J

This static picture, traditionally then drives the protocols of sessions this person will take with that technician meaning the next 25-30 sessions will be set up to assume this person is ‘anxious’ due to the 23-38 hz activity displayed or they have ‘attention’ concerns due to the excess slow activity in the brain, with eyes open.  This could be a somewhat accurate picture of that individual but very likely the qEEG has taken pictures of a brain that is influenced by the concerns of the process (lack of sleep the night before, full/empty stomach, dialogue with spouse/parent, work related issues or school related issues that day).

After using these traditional systems for several years I discovered a different method of recording and mirroring back the ‘brain  events’ sometimes referred to as ‘turbulence’ within the cortical activity and achieving a neuronal balance; NeurOptimal.   Dr. Val Brown created a system that works along with a dynamic (ever-changing) brain.  His program has ‘targets’ within the software that actually encompasses the entire range of frequencies from 0.5 hz to 128 hz and allows the brain to self-organize by using ‘auto-dynamical’ settings.  The result of this type of a global system is constantly mirroring the cortical activity to the individual this ‘information’ is received and results in a dance between the computer and the individual.

When we have a frequency or two that is too loud in the brain it is like having a trumpet blaring in an orchestra.  We want the trumpets in the orchestra however, if you cannot hear any of the violins, then there is a problem.  All of the cortical activity we have is good activity, however, when we get too much of certain frequencies then they become too loud and jeopardize the ‘jobs’ of other frequencies (like being able to sleep because your anxiety frequencies are too loud).  This sounds simplistic however, suffice it to say, with NeurOptimal the brain is able to be dynamic and the system will respond in the moment and give information that allows that person to ‘retrain’ their brain.

The Pros of this innovative system are:

  • It is able to give information to all frequencies at one time, this program is global mirroring back information from 0.5 hz to 128 hz. This creates a relationship with the program rather than the technician picking and choosing specific frequencies to augment or inhibit. (In traditional systems, if you can take away ADHD, but depending on your experience and knowledge you can also create it by augmenting and inhibiting the wrong frequencies)
  • NeurOptimal is perfect for all people working on all conditions including Peak-Performance, not because it is a ‘one size fits all’ but because it is using the auto-dynamical thresholds and ‘meeting the person where their cortical activity is on that given day’, using whatever brain events that person has and detecting ANY turbulence in that cortical activity. The instrument will detect this activity within milliseconds and give information to the trainee that they had an interruption upon which time the system then will respond in kind. (256 times per second!  Faster than any trainer could physically respond to the individual!)
  • The music is beautiful; using music created just for this program, Jeff Bova, wrote a seamless rendition that encompasses the individual.
  • The system is so self-regulated it is now able to be purchased as a home system for anyone to use and gain benefit from.
  • Therapists that do adjunctive processing, like we use at Cognitive Connections are able to do Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy at the same time as they are doing Neurofeedback. We use this system for many concerns, strokes, TBI’s, Auditory Processing, ADHD, FASD, Autism and Sleep/Pain concerns.  Programs like Bulletproof Executive are using the system to promote Peak Performance due to its ease and robust abilities.  Other mental health therapists use it in their office for trauma, depression, PTSD, and bessel van der Kolk’s recommendations. .

The Cons

  • The visual graphics that the system uses right now is Windows media player, and although, this is beautiful, I personally would appreciate a different more visually appealing program. ( I understand Zengar is looking at changing that in its newest rendition)
  • The paste is still a concern with all systems, traditional and NeurOptimal, for now that is a concern we all just have to live with!
  • The program is so easy to use it is putting therapists out of business! No seriously reducing the number of months sometimes years a therapist is working with a client!

*It is of note that although I do not work for Zengar or gain monetary gain from writing this, I am a teacher and trainer of this method to other therapists and potential users of NeurOptimal.  Should you have any additional questions about either traditional or Dynamic Neurofeedback systems do not hesitate to contact me at 317-258-7444 or http://www.cognitive-connections.com    

Dr. Lise’ DeLong, PhD, CPCRT   ~Developmental NeuroCognitive Specialist

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Have You Taught Your Children About FASD?

It truly takes a whole village to raise a child! We must ALL work together to help the next generation! I remember once seeing a young girl in a restaurant and she had started to take a drink of wine. I ran up to her and stopped that drink. She said it was the first ‘drink’ she had since she found out she was pregnant. She then went on to say it was her Birthday and she was celebrating. I am always surprised by the lack of knowledge of FASD, but went on to explain even 1 drink can make a life-long permanent change in the brain of a baby, depending on what part of the brain is being ‘developed’ at the time of ingestion. It is truly our responsibility to help others become aware of how their actions will affect others!

“Is it safe to drink a little alcohol while pregnant, such as an occasional glass of wine?

No. According to the CDC and the U.S. Surgeon General, “There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink and no safe kind of alcohol.”  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics: “There is no safe amount of alcohol when a woman is pregnant. Evidence based research states that even drinking small amounts of alcohol while pregnant can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, or sudden infant death syndrome.”

When you drink alcohol, so does your developing baby. Any amount of alcohol, even in one glass of wine, passes through the placenta from the mother to the growing baby.  Developing babies lack the ability to process, or metabolize, alcohol through the liver or other organs.  They absorb all of the alcohol and have the same blood alcohol concentration as the mother.  It makes no difference if the alcoholic drink consumed is a distilled spirit or liquor such as vodka, beer, or wine.”  http://www.nofas.org/light-drinking/

Thirty-two years ago we adopted a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  Her birth Mother was 14 years old.  When we found our little girl when she was 18 months old.  She had no verbal language ability and severe global Apraxia, she was diagnosed with a profound sensory neural loss in her left ear (no functional hearing) and a conductive moderate loss in her right ear. She was unable to stand on her own, was not crawling yet and had a pinched torticollis (which now has left her with hands shaking and a lack of balance).  My heart went out to her and we have spent the last 30 years advocating for her.  She has had a VERY difficult life and continues to have significant problems due to her birth parents being very young, uneducated, and intensely self-involved (as many teens are).

Our children are having babies and they MUST understand the ramifications of even 1 drink while they are pregnant. We are responsible for teaching them.  The time that is the most impressionable to the brain is in the first trimester when many girls do not even know they are pregnant.  Therefore, to a girl that is sexually active everyday must be treated as if today is the day a new life may begin…

The Effects of Subtle FAS:

Fetal Alcohol has a spectrum from mild to severe some of the most mild may look like ADHD but the cognitive effects can be severe and lasting a life time.

  • Learning information and remembering/retaining information
  • Understanding and following auditory, visual or written directions
  • Controlling emotions, highs and lows
  • Communicating and socializing (many times inappropriate)
  • Behavioral concerns ( can be angry and volatile)
  • Daily life skills, such as feeding, brushing teeth, bathing are forgotten
  • No impulse control
  • Not able to learn from their mistakes
  • Auditory Processing problems (unable to understand directions, or listen to more than 1 thing at a time)
  • Attention Problems- Can not stay focused on the topic,
  • Specific Learning Disabilities- Math, Reading Comprehension,

The mild cases are most challenging in some ways, they do not look as if anything is wrong and the individual may even be very bright however, the more subtle brain damage can be the most devastating to an individual.  They know they should be able to learn, that they are different and that they do not have the emotional control that others their age have.

Any alcohol at any time during a pregnancy may have a life-time effect on the baby’s brain.

Do you really want to take a chance on a lifelong disability for your child?  Is that one glass of wine worth the possibilities of FAS?  It is not just YOUR life that is affected.  Your child may look ‘normal’ and have life long cognitive, emotional and psychological damage.

I want to thank our daughter for being so patient with the world…learning how to accept life based on a ‘non-handicapped person’s’ view of what the environment and conditions of the world should be like for her. You have raised us to be more understanding and more compassionate because of your willingness to wait on us to ‘come around’ to your needs. The world will learn someday!  You are a brave girl living with this condition as you put on your huge forgiving smile and continue to struggle daily to learn, live and love…and all because of the pleasure of a few drinks of alcohol for one very young, immature, uninformed girl. I want to promise you sweetie, we will educate the world…because FASD is 100% preventable and it is a horrific burden for all of those suffering with this condition to bear.

Lise’ DeLong, Ph.D., CPCRT