HOW DOES NEUROPTIMAL® WORK?
NeurOptimal® is the latest generation in neurofeedback technology. It tracks the brain’s millisecond-by-millisecond electrical activity. This technology uses your natural feedback system- auditory sense perception- to give you key feedback to reset patterns.
Learn how this advanced brain training system works, who it is for, why it is so safe and the benefits.
- EEG Sensors Q&A
- Cost of NeurOptimal®
- In Office NeurOptimal ®Cost
- Home Neurofeedback System
- Professional NeurOptimal System Cost
- Is There Any Difference Between Home And Professional NeurOptimal?
- How To Become A Certified Neurofeedback Trainer
- How To Know Whether To Rent Or Purchase A Neurofeedback System
Is Neurofeedback Real?
While the term neurofeedback is new to many consumers and wellness providers, it has actually been around since the 1970s. Neurofeedback, or EEG biofeedback, uses EEG sensors to collect the brain’s electrical activity in real-time from the scalp and send it to the software system for interpreting.
For neurofeedback to work, this information must be transferred to the neurofeedback device via a wired or wireless means. The general rule is that a wired system still provides faster transmission, which is key to the best results.
In order for the training to be effective, that electrical information has to be delivered at the speed the brain communicates, which is in microseconds.
Neurofeedback is real because it has been demonstrated through numerous studies since the late 1960s that measuring brainwave activity and feeding that information back to the individual through auditory or visual cues is meaningful for creating optimal wellness and resetting patterns.
What is NeurOptimal® neurofeedback?
NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback tracks the brain’s millisecond-by-millisecond electrical activity. The brain communicates with itself through electricity and chemicals. This technology tracks the electrical communication of the brain, our brainwaves, to give precisely timed feedback through auditory cues.
When we are cued to pay attention at the moment change is happening we can, as the brain is designed, optimize our performance. Habitual patterns need to be interrupted in order for change to occur.
More technically, NeurOptimal® is designed to give feedback at the precise moment based on the mathematical calculations of the brainwaves electrical intensity, the duration of that signal and how frequently it occurs. The software reads 256 data points of electrical output from the scalp per second! That is the speed of the brain's communication. When the software detects change it alerts through interruptions in auditory input, ie music. Those interruptions serve as cues that we need to pay attention to what's happening habitually. Through the process we can shift out of habits such as lacking focus, worrying, disrupted sleep, and reset our mental and emotional patterns.
The theory is: with good, exact information about its choices, the brain can change itself and optimize performance.
A mind that is more flexible adapts and responds quicker and more appropriately to changes in your environment.
The more easily you adjusts to changes encountered in a normal busy day, the better you feel. A lack of brain fitness, on the other hand, can leave you drained and stressed at the end of the day.
4 Key Facts About NeurOptimal®
- FULLY AUTOMATED SYSTEM
NeurOptimal® has the software called AutoNav, which does not require complicated protocols to be set. The advanced design allows for an easy to use interface appropriate for consumers to run sessions successfully.
- DIAGNOSTICALLY AGNOSTIC
Instead of targeting specific symptoms, whether cognitive or emotional, NeurOptimal® focuses on optimizing overall brain function. This approach teaches a new way of relating with the environment by training in coming present millisecond by millisecond. Over time it is learned: don't just assume you know what's needed check in with the present and assess.
When you are training, no electricity, vibration or external signal is going into the brain. In addition, brain training with NeurOptimal® does not target specific areas of the brain nor does it push the brain in any direction. Unlike older systems, no protocols need to be set by an external trainer.
- 100% NATURAL
NeurOptimal® alerts you to come into the present based on advanced software calculating when to create the interruptions in the music. Nothing added. The system is designed to support the organic learning process.
Sign up to watch our free webinar!
How does NeurOptimal® Work?
NeurOptimal® is the only Dynamical Neurofeedback™ on the market and has been used by wellness professionals for over 15 years. The software works on the premise that the individual brain is its own expert, which has been confirmed in neuroscience with discoveries surrounding neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Give the brain good data and it will use it to optimize because the brain is always trying to use its energy to make the most efficient and effective decisions.
NeurOptimal® simply provides millisecond-by-millisecond feedback to the user's brain and the brain does the rest. Nothing is added or forced. No clinician or brain map is required. It is built on the recognition that the brain has its own organic, inherent capacity to rebalance wave pattern frequencies using this feedback.
Resources from Zengar (the company behind the NeurOptimal system):
Watch What Happens in a NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback Session
This brief video explains what happens in a NeurOptimal® session. Please know that regardless of what training option you choose (renting, buying or scheduling a session) the neurofeedback program is exactly the same on all systems.
Related:Watch Our Client Success Stories
NeurOptimal® 3 Software
What's Better About NeurOptimal® 3.5*?
In April of 2018 Zengar Institute, the makers of NeurOptimal® released version 3.0 after six years of re-design. For the upgrade Zengar hired an additional six engineers worked closely with the software engineers at NeurOptimal® to perfect what Dr. Valdeane Brown envisioned in the early 1970s.
In order for Dr. Val Brown to fulfill the vision of a fully automated neurofeedback system that worked in step with decision-making speed of the human brain he needed to wait almost 30 years.
In the late 2000s AutoNav was introduced, allowing the system to be fully automated, taking away the need for expertise setting protocols or monitoring the feedback. The hardware now had the capacity to respond in real-time to the electrical data taken from the scalp of the client, and give feedback at exactly the right millisecond for it to be meaningful information to be used to optimize electrical communication.
• As of March 2022, NeurOptimal has been updated to 3.5
The system's software is based on a dynamical model of change. Instead of giving static, linear information for the brain to use as a form of feedback. In general, one could say that when there are symptoms there are brainwave habitual patterns that reflect those states. If someone has difficulty focusing on a task, their brainwaves will reflect that difficulty.
The old model is to have an expert trainer decide how to train the brainwaves using linear and static information. An example of this would be a trainer setting a protocol in the neurofeedback machine to increase certain brainwaves of a client based on a brain map taken weeks ago. NeurOptimal®'s design is based on the dynamical process that happens between the brain and the software to give real-time feedback about those brainwaves that the brain uses to continuously upgrade and reset its own brainwaves to be the most in alignment with the ever-changing needs of the individual.
One new feature of NeurOptimal® 3.0 is that the software now measures highest brain frequencies. Brain frequencies, or brain wave frequencies, are the electrical output of the brain measured in Hertz and translated by mathematics into meaningful band waves.
For example, the highest brain frequencies, above 60 Hz, were found to be very active in advanced meditators. This is a new discovery by researchers studying the brainwave patterns of longtime meditators in a state of meditation. When Windows 10 was released in 2017, their team spent a year beta-testing to make sure that the software interfaced perfectly with the new Windows design. Windows operating system and the NeurOptimal® software communicate with each other. If their communication is in alignment then you experience seamless training, without the need for frequent technical support.
NeurOptimal® 3 Featured Updates*
- Larger set of 20 targets (previously 16)
- Including high Hertz frequencies, up to 63 Hz
- Customizable G-Force Visualizer, exclusively created for NeurOptimal® to provide a more pleasant visual experience
- Automatic In-Line adaptive de-noising filter that ignores environmental electrical activity, such as the 60 Hz electrical noise common to old buildings
- Session Pause, allowing you to resume from where you left off
- Simpler to use, with one click (or tap) you can start a session
- Intuitive and built from the ground up for Windows 10
- New Touchscreen Interface, makes navigating NO3 effortless
*A minor update to the NeurOptimal® Version 3 was released on March 1, 2022. Learn more.
Download e-book: How Does NeurOptimal® Work E-Book (PDF)
What Hasn't Changed In The NeurOptimal® Device?
The main feature of NeurOptimal® that didn't change from version 2.0 to 3.0 is the proprietary mathematics behind Dynamical Neurofeedback™. As the only neurofeedback on the market that uses it, the software applies an advanced mathematical formula that mirrors the electrical communication of the brain to itself. The theory of brain plasticity, or how the brain can change its wiring to adapt functioning, is transformed into mathematics.
The brain, which communicates through chemical reactions and electrical impulses, is designed to improve its own communication but needs a feedback system. With NeurOptimal® through the millisecond-by-millisecond data collection (256 data points per second to be precise) the software alerts us to those inefficiencies so we can enhance overall performance. The system of alerting is through micro-interruptions in auditory input (music). Hearing is the main sense perception that the brain uses to detect changes in the environment. In essence, the precisely-timed interruptions, tell us to pay attention to the environment.
Through awareness, change and improvements can happen.
When training your brain with the NeurOptimal® system, EEG sensors are placed on your scalp and ear which read electrical signals or brainwaves coming from your brain.
Nothing goes back to your brain through the sensors.
You are given headphones to listen to music during the brain training session. The music is the platform for the feedback. The design of the brain is that we use auditory sense perception 24/7 to note changes in our environment. NeurOptimal® was designed to use our brain's natural way of noticing changes, which is through listening.
The NeurOptimal® neurofeedback device reads the brain signals 256 times per second!
That’s how fast your brain is communicating. When the NeurOptimal software detects changes in brainwaves it creates a micro-interruption in the music, which you may notice as a skipping record sound. Why interrupt the music? It signals to you to pay attention to what’s going on. Through the training you are learning to use better information-present moment information-rather than staying stuck in your habitual patterns.
A good analogue is when you are daydreaming and in a daydream you (your brain) are not aware of what is happening in your immediate environment. There is a lack of awareness until someone calls your name and you simultaneously realize that you were lost in a daydream, and recognize the quality of that daydream, as well as take in information about the here-and-now. This moment of interruption of what's habitual during a neurofeedback session is each time the software stops the music. The mathematical formula of the device is set to alert the brain whenever it is about to change states and perform some function.
See a infographic below describing what happens in a NeurOptimal® session.
Good to know about the NeurOptimal® Session
- The neurofeedback program lasts 33 minutes. (There is also a demo version (15 min.) and an extended version (44 min.) which is available when renting).
- There are 5 EEG Sensors, placed on scalp and ears. Two on the left scalp and ear, and three on right scalp and ear.
- A session is effortless. The primary feedback is auditory. Sleep is encouraged!
- It's 100% non-invasive brain training. Safe for kids and adults at any age. Read more why below.
Related Article & Video
Is NeurOptimal® Safe?
Neurofeedback Training with NeurOptimal® is a safe, non-invasive, brain training method to optimize overall wellness-helping you create calm, and improve your executive functioning and mood.
NeurOptimal® is a training tool and does not diagnose, treat, or cure any disease, disorder or abnormal physical state, nor does it restore, modify or correct the body’s structure or functioning.
In 2018 the FDA designated the NeurOptimal® system as a General Wellness Product, safe to be used directly by consumers without the need of a doctor or healthcare provider's prescription or oversight.
What are the Benefits of NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback Training?
This second generation neurofeedback system is designed to mirror to you the most important information in the human body: the brain’s electrical communication. The specific area of wellness you want to improve, be it physical, mental or emotional, becomes more manageable and attainable with regulation of the brainwaves. Clients report successful outcomes across a broad spectrum of concerns.
Brain Training with NeurOptimal® helps you enhance...
Learning capacity and executive functioning associated with work and school performance
Sleep management (more restful sleep, waking up feeling refreshed)
De-stress and manage stress better
Mental acuity (feeling more alert, focused, ease of working memory and calm)
Anti-ageing and brain fitness and cognitive performance
Staying calm and focused in periods of performance anxiety
What Can I Expect From Neurofeedback Training?
When the brain is trained with NeurOptimal® clients may notice the following:
- Feeling calmer
- Increased mental clarity
- Dropping away of fears
- More appropriate emotional response to situations
- Feeling lighter and greater ease (improved mood)
- Increased motivation and ability to accomplish tasks
- Feeling more rested (deeper sleep)
How would you feel if your brain was functioning at its best? Watch testimonials
History of NeurOptimal®
The NeurOptimal® neurofeedback equipment was invented by a neuropsychologist and clinical psychologist team Drs. Valdeane and Sue Brown, in collaboration with software engineers. Over a period of decades, beginning in the early 1970s, first Dr. Val Brown, then Dr. Sue Brown joined in the early 1990s. They refined the software as computer hardware technology advanced and as they integrated feedback from clinicians using early versions of neurofeedback in their practices.
Valdeane W. Brown, Ph.D., Co-Founder & President
Susan Dermit Brown, Ph.D., Co-Founder & Senior Vice President
Although Dr. Val Brown started his work in neurofeedback using the first generation, protocol systems, he advanced his technology as the computing technology changed. This second-generation neurofeedback is called Dynamical neurofeedback under the brand name NeurOptimal®.
The major advances that happened were in 2010 with the introduction of AutoNav, the software's ability to work in realtime with the brain. This leap in design meant the software was now fast enough to be dynamically responsive to the brain's ever-changing brainwave states.
It was a major industry disruptor because it meant the system could run successful brain training sessions without the need for an expert trainer setting protocols, which the first generation of neurofeedback devices require. This change also meant that neurofeedback at home was possible. Parents can now administer sessions at home for their children, rather than having to bring them into an office.
All along the design goal was to create a system that used precisely timed feedback to interact with the brain’s organic ability to optimize its functioning, thus allowing it to be used safely and effectively at home.
The latest changes in NeurOptimal® happened in 2018 with the introduction of version 3.0 of the software.
With 3.0 came the advancement to measuring and giving feedback about the highest brain frequencies. These brainwaves are associated with such things as, deep states of meditation and spiritual experiences.
Did You Know? NeurOptimal 3 is the only fully-automated dynamical neurofeedback device.
And lastly, in 2018 Zengar Institute received word from the FDA that it would recognize the NeurOptimal® device as a General Wellness Device. This designation was the goal as it confirms NeurOptimal® as safe and appropriate for home use and with children.
- Read a personal story from co-founder Dr. Susan Cheshire Brown
- Bulletproof Podcast: Listen to an interview by Dave Asprey and co-founder Dr. Valdeane Brown about the Neurofeedback Technology
- The Science behind NeurOptimal® - Watch our interview with Dr. Val Brown, co-creator of NeurOptimal®
EEG Sensors - A Q&A
NeurOptimal 3.0 targets 20 different sets of frequencies across the right and left brain, each target naturally balancing off the effects of others. There are a total of five EEG sensors to set up before starting a session.
How do I apply and take off the EEG sensors the best way on myself
Clip the zAmp device to your shirt (or hold in in your hand) and go to the mirror to add and remove the sensors. Sometimes it helps to dab the area on the scalp with a wet-wipe before applying the two yellow sensors. It will make it easier to remove it afterwards. When you unplug the zAmp, just make sure to plug it back in before starting the session. Otherwise you'll get an error message and are unable to start a session.
Did you know? NeurOptimal use C3 and C4 - ie: the midpoints on each side of the head between the top of the ear and the top of the head. If you get them close to those points, then there is no “wrong place”. NeurOptimal is the only system that captures the highest brainwave frequencies, and has the largest range of frequencies that are measured. 95% of all electrical activity is picked up anywhere on the scalp so that's why one does not need to keep moving the sensors in order to capture all the brainwave frequencies.
If I rent a Home System, what if I apply the sensors to the wrong place?
NeurOptimal uses C3 and C4 - ie: the midpoints on each side of the head between the top of the ear and the top of the head. If you get them close to those points, then there is no “wrong place”.
What's the purpose of the music in NeurOptimal®?
The primary feedback is via audio, as long as you have the sensors placed per the instructions, hear the skips/gaps in music and see that the timer in the small Vault window is counting down from 33 minutes -- it is working. If you don't see the screen saver images or charts-- don't worry! There is absolutely no need to watch the screen while in session. Instead, try to relax; close your eyes, sleep, read a book or magazine, talk, draw, play a game etc... The system and your brain/central nervous system will do all the work.
How neurofeedback works is actually not about the particular sound or sight but rather how the orienting or “pay attention to yourself” response of the brain gets triggered by stopping the music or visual display. We are “bio-hacking” by interrupting the habitual patterns through the use of the brain’s natural information gathering process, the orienting response. It’s triggered by interrupting the music which triggers the awareness response of the automatic functioning CNS to come into the present moment . This serves as an opportunity for the mal-adaptive habits, such as constantly being in a state of stress, to be revealed.
So while there is the necessity for sound it’s not the particulars of it, that make the neurofeedback work. It the interruption process at the exact millisecond the brain is about to change states (read by the electrical patterning) and perform an action that is key for the ‘feedback.’
How do I clean the NeurOptimal® EEG Sensors?
The sensors are made of pure silver, any lingering paste can cause corrosion and will reduce the lifespan of your sensors. Gently clean the sensors after each use to avoid corrosion. Use a wet wipe (or wet paper tower, if a lot of paste on the sensors use running warm water (make sure to dry them afterwards)!
Why do I hear the music skips/pauses even if the EEG Sensors are not attached?
The sensors are passive in that they pick up any electrical activity, which there is a lot of in our environments. It's not meaningful interruptions when the sensors are picking up environmental noise. In fact, NeurOptimal, unlike all other neurofeedback systems, is able to cancel out environmental EEG activity when you are training. The software knows the difference between the 60 Hz environmental noise and your brain's electrical activity.
Watch a Demo on How to Apply the EEG Sensors at Home
Natalie Baker, owner of Neurofeedback Training Co., demonstrates how easy it is to add the sensors on yourself
Cost of NeurOptimal®
Pricing of NeurOptimal® sessions depends on whether you are brain training at home through a rental or direct purchase of the equipment, or training in-office.
For in-office sessions the price depends on where you are in the US or Canada, whether your trainer is a licensed healthcare provider, and whether they run multiple sessions at a time. A quick Google search can give you an accurate idea of in-office NeurOptimal® session prices near you. The price for in-office sessions typically range from $90-$225.
Home neurofeedback sessions are less expensive. If renting a NeurOptimal® system sessions can range from $30-80 per session. Usually the cost is per month and includes a certain number of sessions to use each month or are unlimited-use per month rentals. As of 2023 we also offer a limited number of lease-to-own package of a NeurOptimal system.
Purchasing a NeurOptimal® system is the least expensive long-term training option. Cost per session on a home system can be as low as $10. NeurOptimal® for sale comes in two different systems -Personal NeurOptimal® and Professional NeurOptimal® - both have the same software. The Personal system is a pay-as-you-go system starting at $7,995 USD and the Professional system is an unlimited-use system starting at 10,995 USD. Even though it's called the Professional, the unlimited use system can be purchased by individual users as well as professionals.
The price of purchasing will not vary because NeurOptimal only sells their devices directly through its sales representatives and have no wholesaling and no variations on pricing.
With the NeurOptimal® system there are no on-going membership fees. The system is and license is owned out-right by the consumer.
Is there any difference Between home and Professional NeurOptimal®?
No. There is no difference in the neurofeedback technology on a home unit either purchased or rented and the professional-grade systems used in clinics. The only difference between home and in-office neurofeedback might be whether the system has the most up-to-date software. NeurOptimal 3 is the latest version.
In-Person Neurofeedback Sessions
Depending on which city you are in and the level of expertise of your trainer, an in-person session using the NeurOptimal® system range from $90-$220+. Zengar Institute, which makes NeurOptimal®, has a trainer certification program that all trainers must complete. Some trainers are also certified or licensed in other areas of health and wellness and may charge more.
In our office in New York City we offer both therapy and neurofeedback. Our New York neurofeedback trainer is also an experienced therapist. In Los Angeles, and with our partners in Denver & Boulder, we offer in-person sessions ranging from $100 to $160/session.
At-Home NeurOptimal® Rental Cost With Neurofeedback Training co.
Each provider sets their own price for their rentals. Typically they range from $650-$1000 per month and may include a certain number of sessions for that month or be unlimited use.
Over the years, since starting our home neurofeedback rental program in 2012, we refined our pricing to best meet the needs of our different customers.
Some are individuals, such as stressed-out professionals, who don't have a lot of time to train each week but manage to get in one or two sessions. And at the other end are the entire families training multiple times each week. We ended up with three packages of monthly training to capture that range. The costs for those packages are $600 to $900 a month. We also give clients the option to switch plans if their needs change during the rental period.
Now to look at the cost of in-office, rentals and NeurOptimal sales in more depth.
Another factor in the cost of renting is how long the client rents a system. Most of our clients rent for two or three months, and occasionally upwards of five or six months.
A recent survey of our happiest customers showed that they rented for three months.
When clients ask us how many months they should rent for, we focus on educating them so they can know when the right time to return is based on their goals. We educate clients on the benefits, understand the reasons they are training, and encourage them to use the checklist to track their goals.
We have found empowering our clients with information about typical results, as well as encouraging them to track their own experience, gives them the information they need in order to know when they are done with training. We have 48 neurofeedback home devices out with renters every month and they have left positive reviews on their results and the quality service we provide. To find out how to get the most out of your training, read our blog.
Neurofeedback machine Rental - How to Operate The system at Home
Is it difficult to learn how to use the equipment? Watch the video demonstration below to start a NeurOptimal® session. The time needed to learn how to use the equipment is about 15 minutes, and as a renter you will get our exclusive step-by-step manual. An experienced rental coach will also be assigned to each client to help with any questions throughout the rental period.
Watch a 3 minute set-up video on how to start a NeurOptimal® session
Read our Neurofeedback Renting Guide: What you should know before
Professional NeurOptimal® Equipment Price
For professionals looking to bring neurofeedback into their health and wellness practices the starting price for a NeurOptimal® system is $10,495. The system is sold as a bundle and includes everything needed to set up the system in an office environment.
Professional neurofeedback equipment includes:
- Hardware configured specifically to run NeurOptimal® (either a Surface Pro Tablet or Notebook laptop)
- NeurOptimal software program and license
- EEG sensors
- USB cable
- Anti-virus software
- All NeurOptimal® updates
- 6 months free technical support
- 6 months free access to library of webinars and other educational materials
How to become a certified neurofeedback trainer
Becoming a certified neurofeedback trainer through Zengar Institute, the makers of NeurOptimal® is an online or live 2-day course. The cost is $660 for either the Basic NeurOptimal® Certification or the Advanced Certification training. The courses are available in English, Spanish and French.
Re-certification is required every three years and can be completed through an online class.
Their educational department recommends individuals taking the basic training to first have access to a Professional NeurOptimal® system for a few weeks of running sessions before the class begins. This suggestion is not mandatory but is recommended to get the most out of the course. Because the system is fully automated it is safe to be used before the certification is completed.
How to know whether to rent or purchase a neurofeedback system?
Because it is an investment, some clients will try a few sessions in office or rent for a month first and then purchase once they decide they like the training. These clients are ready to dive right in to purchasing as soon as they do the math and realize it is the cheapest neurofeedback training option in the long term.
How to know which neurofeedback system is the most cost-effective for you?
If you are an individual or family and plan to use more than 400 sessions over your lifetime of brain training then the Professional device is the most cost-effective system. Or if you are a professional, unlimited use is obviously the most cost-effective. There are no ongoing membership fees and, unlike other neurofeedback systems, you own the equipment and license outright.
NeurOptimal® for Sale: What is included? (home or professional use)